For many, an Old Fashioned cocktail is the epitome of a perfect Whiskey drink. It's strong, it's bold, and it highlights your base spirit. But what is the best Whiskey for an Old Fashioned?
This guide will help you find the perfect base for your Old Fashioned cocktail: From single malt Scotch to Bourbon to Rye, we've got you covered. So grab your glass, and let's get started on finding the best Whiskey for your Old Fashioned. Cheers!
Bourbon or Rye for Old Fashioned
There are many debates on what is the best alcohol to use for an Old Fashioned cocktail. Ultimately you can use any spirit: Rum, Gin, and even agave spirits like Tequila or Mezcal. Two of the most common choices are Bourbon and Rye. But what are the differences in taste? And which one is the most common choice?
Bourbon is a type of Whiskey made from corn and has a sweet, vanilla taste that is perfect for an Old Fashioned cocktail. And Rye is a Whiskey made from rye grain. It has more spicy and peppery notes, which work beautifully in an Old Fashioned cocktail, as well. It just will be more on the spicy side compared to one made with Bourbon.
Yet the most common choice for an Old Fashioned cocktail -in the US- is Bourbon. And that is mainly because Bourbon has a sweeter taste and is more popular than Rye overall. However, in other countries like Canada and the UK, Rye is the typical choice for Old Fashioned cocktails.
So, which is the better choice for making an Old Fashioned cocktail? Of course, ultimately, that depends on your taste preference. But if you prefer a sweeter drink, then Bourbon is the right option for you.
Best Bourbon for Old Fashioned
There are many different Bourbons on the market, but when it comes to Old Fashioneds, I recommend using a full-bodied one with a complex flavor profile. Some of our favorites include Bulleit Bourbon, Eagle Rare 10 Year Bourbon, and Larceny Small Batch Bourbon.
These Bourbons have all aged for many years, and as a result, they have a rich taste that is perfect for making Old Fashioned cocktails. But let's check them one by one.
Eagle Rare 10 year Bourbon
Taste: Oak, vanilla, orange, and spice
Price: $45 per 750ml bottle
Eagle Rare 10 year Bourbon is another Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey made by the Buffalo Trace Distillery. It has a mash bill of 75% corn, 15 % malted barley, and 15% rye. At least these are the estimated values.
As the name suggests, Eagle Rare is aged for ten years in new charred oak barrels. And it has a complex and woody flavor profile, with notes of vanilla, toffee, and oak. It kind of feels like the flavors could be pronounced even more if the spirit would be just a tad stronger.
Eagle Rare is best enjoyed neat, but it benefits highly of the added sugar and bitters in a Bourbon Old Fashioned. So if you're looking for an aged Bourbon on a budget, give the Eagle Rare Old Fashioned a shot.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Taste: Oak, sweet vanilla, caramel, and leather
Price: $45 per 750ml bottle
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon is has been aged in two different oak barrels. For this, the Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select is aged in a second, fresh, and highly-toasted oak barrel. The Bourbon ages for one additional year in those barrels before the Double Oaked Bourbon is bottled.
One would expect that the oaky notes are far more pronounced than they actually are. In fact, the extra aging not only adds delicate notes of toasted oak. It also brings out some sweet aromas and flavors. That results in a Bourbon with a complex and diverse profile.
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon is a splendid choice for a Bourbon Old Fashioned cocktail. The sweet and oaky flavor just pairs brilliantly with the orange and bitters in the cocktail.
In combination with the Bourbon's smooth finish makes for a delicious drink. And even if you're not up to mixing a cocktail, this double-aged spirit is also great on its own.
Taste: Maple, oak, and nutmeg
Price: $24 per 750ml bottle
Bulleit Bourbon is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey distilled and bottled in Loretto, Kentucky. It is made from a mash of corn, rye, and malted barley and aged for four years in charred oak barrels.
It has a medium amber color and a really smooth and clean finish with a slight toffee note. And Bulleit is a mildly spiced Bourbon that also carries some sweet oak notes.
And Bulleit Bourbon also is an excellent Whiskey to sip neat. It's bold and complex with lots of flavors. However, as with most spirits, the combination with sugar, aromatic bitters, and cherries lifts the taste to another level. The balanced spiciness also shines through without taking away from the other notes in the drink.
Larceny Small Batch Bourbon
Taste: Vanilla, (spiced) cherries, caramel, and oak
Price: $20 per 750ml bottle
Larceny is a craft Bourbon made in the heart of Kentucky. The mash bill is unknown to the public, but connoisseurs expect it to include corn, wheat, and malted barley. It is bottled at 92 proof and is available in 750ml and 50ml bottles. It's one of the few Bourbons that include wheat as a secondary grain.
There aren't that many competitors who produce wheated Bourbons. Makers Mark is the most famous one and the greatest competitor. But while Makers Mark emphasizes the unique character of wheat in the mash bill, Larceny created something that appeals to a broader audience.
As a result, many people criticize the taste of Makers Mark. Yet, there's hardly any complaint about the taste of Larceny.
The notes of spicy cherry in the spirit make it a beautiful and unique fit in an Old Fashioned cocktail. Also, it's one of It's also quite aromatic, with slight notes of spice and fruit. Larceny Bourbon has the typical deep amber color that develops during the aging time in the barrel.
Elijah Craig Barrel-Proof
Taste: Vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, pepper, and cinnamon
Price: $70 per 750ml bottle
This release is a barrel-proof Bourbon from a mash with 78% corn, 12% malted barley, and 10% rye. The high ABV (120.2 proof) allows the flavors to meld together and fully mature. And deep mahogany in color, this Bourbon aged 12 years in new and charred oak barrels.
It is exceptionally smooth with a long, lingering finish. Elijah Craig Barrel-Proof is perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks. A bold and boozy Bourbon with an enormous variety of flavors. And even though it's hard to believe, it also makes a delicious Old Fashioned cocktail.
Four Roses Single Barrel
Taste: oak, caramel, vanilla, and citrus
Price: $50 per 750ml bottle
Four Roses Single Barrel is a premium Single Barrel that is super smooth and full-bodied. Bourbon for making an Old Fashioned cocktail on a budget. It's smooth and mellow with a rich flavor with the iconic Bourbon aromas of vanilla, toffee, and oak. But it also has notes of oaky caramel to it.
Overall the taste is well-rounded. And thanks to its mellow flavor, Four Roses Single Barrel is not just great for mixing it into cocktails. But as with every Single Barrel, there is variation depending on the barrel your Bourbon is coming out of.
The flavors of Roses Single Barrel are fruity and sweet with notes of vanilla, cocoa, baked apples, and honey. And this well-developed flavor profile makes a superb fit for an Old Fashioned. The sweet and fruity flavors combine well with the sugar and Angostura bitters and lead to a complex Bourbon Old Fashioned.
Best affordable Bourbon for Old Fashioned: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Taste: Brown sugar, dark fruit, and toffee
The Buffalo Trace Distillery is one of the oldest and most recognized distilleries when it comes to Bourbon. It got named after its location on the route where buffalos used to cross the Kentucky River. Some of the finest Bourbon has been produced here for over 200 years. And Kentucky Straight Bourbon is the signature product of the Buffalo Trace brand.
When used in an Old Fashioned, the combination with sugar and Angostura bitters release even more flavor. The hints of brown sugar, molasses, and toffee in the flavor profile add a nice touch to the cocktail. That certainly is one of my favorite Bourbon options when it comes down to making some Old Fashioneds.
Whether you're looking for a budget-friendly Bourbon for your next party or want a delicious sipping Bourbon that won't break the bank, Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a brilliant pick. And probably the best cheap Bourbon option for making an excellent Old Fashioned.
Best Rye for Old Fashioned
The Rye Old Fashioned has been around for decades. It includes Rye Whiskey, sugar, bitters, and water. And the Rye gives the drink an extra spicy flavor that pairs well with the sweet sugar and cocktail bitters.
For the garnish, you can use an orange slice or a cherry. The orange slice brings some color to your drink, and the essential oils pair well with the Rye Whiskey flavor. Add a cherry as a fruity and sweet garnish for your Old Fashioned.
When choosing a Rye for your Old Fashioned, you'll want to look for one that's well-rounded and smooth. So let's have a look at our favorites.
Whistle Pig Rye 10 years
Region: New England / Canada
Taste: Orange, pineapple, peppermint, and vanilla
Whistle Pig Rye 10 years is an extraordinary Whiskey. It's made from 100% rye grain, and it's aged for ten years in oak barrels. That gives it a unique flavor that you hardly find in other Whiskeys.
The Whistle Pig distillery was founded in 2007. And until 2015, they only imported Canadian Rye which was then finished and bottled in Vermont. In 2015 they started to produce their own Whiskey, as well. But until now, this is not part of the 10-year-old expression. So, if you want to try it, look for their "farmstock" offerings.
The taste of this Rye Whiskey is remarkable and really interesting. Already with the first sip, you get so many fruity flavors of orange and pineapple. But despite the fruity notes, this Rye isn't overly sweet. Instead, notes of peppermint, wood, and some slightly spicy notes.
And it's that unusual fruity flavor profile that makes this Rye so exceptional when used in an Old Fashioned. The sugar helps unfold more flavors and aromas, and the cocktail bitters are perfect to balance it all while creating an even more complex flavor profile.
High West Whiskey Double Rye
Taste: Vanilla, oak, and honeysuckle
High West Whiskey Double Rye is a blend of two different types of Straight Rye Whiskey. One is aged for two years, the other for nine years. The depth of flavor is relatively shallow, especially when compared to some other bottles from this list. But this Double has some serious spice notes. If you're looking for a Whiskey to make a spicy Old Fashioned, the High West Double Rye is probably a great option.
Sipped neat, the taste is a bit muted. It almost tastes a bit diluted, and you only get some light notes of vanilla, oak, and some sweetness from honey and honeysuckle. But mixed in an Old Fashioned, the flavors are slightly more pronounced, and the spiciness is more balanced. Simply put, a fantastic Rye for making some spicy cocktails.
Wild Turkey 101 Rye
Taste: Grain, spice, mint, oat, and apple
When looking for a quality Rye Whiskey, you can't go wrong with Wild Turkey. The distillery has more than 40 years of experience in making Rye Whiskey. And that reflects in the quality of their spirits. Sipping Wild Turkey 101 Rye neat, you instantly are confronted with intense grainy and spicy notes. Once that initial spice level fades, the more delicate notes of the Whiskey shine through.
Fresh minty notes alongside oatmeal and apples come through. In the background, you can also taste very slight oaky notes. The finish is rather typical for a Rye Whiskey. Oaky notes take over as the spiciness fades out. Overall, the 101 is a perfect example of a quality Rye Whiskey.
It feels like Wild Turkey 101 Rye has just the right amount of alcohol. The 101 proof is bold and boozy enough to fill your throat with spice, but it's not too strong and overpowering. In combination with sugar, orange peel, and Angostura bitters, the spirit creates a delicious and spicy Rye Old Fashioned.
Woodford Reserve Rye
Taste: subtle peppery spice, honey, apple, and vanilla
Woodford Reserve Rye is made with a mash of only 53% rye (it needs at least 51% for legally being called Rye) and also shows a whopping 33% corn in the mash bill. That might not lead to a groundbreaking new and unique flavor. But it creates some untypical sweetness, though.
That Woodford Reserve Rye carries less spiciness doesn't come as a surprise. Instead, the spirit shows some typical Bourbon notes, coming from the high proportion of corn in the mash bill.
Due to its unique flavor profile somewhere between a Rye and Bourbon, Woodford Reserve Rye truly makes for a delicious Old Fashioned. And with the addition of sugar and cocktail bitters, the different flavors are enhanced and create a wonderful and complex Whiskey cocktail.
Willet Family Estate Four Year Rye
Taste: Raisin, mint, spice, and caramel
Willet Family Estate Four Year Rye is a blend of Willett high rye mash bill and Willett low rye mash bill. And although the Rye Whiskey doesn't look that special on paper and "only" is aged for four years, the resulting spirit is excellent. An exciting rye whiskey, superbly distilled, with a complex aroma and flavor profile.
Here and there, you can find some floral and botanical notes. In combination with sugar and aromatic cocktail bitters, this spirit unfolds its whole array of flavors. -A superb option for making a Rye Old Fashioned.
Best affordable Rye for Old Fashioned: Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey
Taste: Vanilla, light caramel, and oak
Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey is a fabulous and budget-friendly Rye for classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned. Its flavors are aromatic and peppery, yet, they also show intense and sweet vanilla notes. Tasting and "chewing" it a bit longer will bring out some additional notes like Graham cracker, peanuts, and candy.
Old Overholt is a good choice for cocktails that call for Rye Whiskey, and it's also an exquisite mixer for cocktails like the Manhattan or Old Fashioned. At around $19 - $20 per bottle, Old Overholt is one of the most affordable Rye Whiskeys on the market. If you're looking for a cheap, budget-friendly Rye to use in Old Fashioneds, Old Overholt is an excellent choice.
Best Scotch for Old Fashioned
When it comes to making the perfect Scotch Old Fashioned, there are a few things you need to know. Scotch is a type of Whiskey made from barley and water. It is then distilled and aged in oak casks for a minimum of three years. Scotch is typically smoky and peaty in flavor, which is a delight for everyone enjoying drinks with some smoky notes.
But there are a few things to look for when choosing the best Scotch for your Old Fashioned cocktail. As not all Scotch Whiskies have a smokiness to them, you'll probably want to find one that has a sufficient level of smoky notes. Second, you'll want to find a Scotch that works well when sipped neat. Using it as the base in an Old Fashioned will only enhance its flavor, so choose a Scotch you love, and you'll love the Old Fashioned version.
Only a few Scotch Whiskies fit the bill perfectly and are excellent choices for making an Old Fashioned. The Laphroaig 10 Year Scotch and Balvenie Double Wood Scotch 12 years are just two of them. So here's our list of the best Scotch for making an Old Fashioned.
Laphroaig 10 Years
Region: Islay, Scotland
Taste: Peaty smoke, sea salt, oak, and malty sweetness
Laphroaig 10 Years is a classic Scotch that aged for ten years. It has a smoky, peaty taste and is perfect for making Scotch Old Fashioneds. At least if you prefer your drinks on the smoky side.
Laphroaig is one of the few distilleries that still malt their barley in-house. Visiting their distillery, you can't miss out on their famous malting floor. If you're looking for a classic smoky Scotch, Laphroaig 10 is a great option. It's definitely on the smoky side but not as smoky as a Lagavulin 16. And on top, Laphroaig is also one of the more affordable single-malt Scotches.
Mixed in a Scotch Old Fashioned, the smoky, peaty flavor truly enhances the drink. The light notes of salt and oak are also a little more pronounced when combined with sugar and bitters. Laphroaig 10 Years is a brilliant option for those who want to enjoy a sophisticated yet "inexpensive" (compared to other single-malt Scotch) Old Fashioned with delicate smoky notes.
Balvenie Double Wood Scotch 12 years
Region: Speyside, Scotland
Taste: Apricot, honey, and oak
The history of Balvenie Double Wood Scotch 12 years started in 1993. Back then, the double aging method, performed in two different types of barrels, was more of an experiment. An experiment that also lends the spirit its name "Double Wood." More than twenty years later, it's fair to say that this experiment was highly successful.
Balvenie first ages their Scotch in ex-Bourbon barrels for 12 years. After that, the spirit ages again for nine months in former Oloroso Sherry casks. The result is filtered, colored, and bottled at 40% alcohol. A few percent more would have been nice to emphasize the flavors more, but we will not complain.
The flavors are mild, with delicate notes of apricot and honey. Then, in the finish, more intense wood notes and dryness. The oak provides a slight tingling sensation on the tongue without making the Whisky give up its mild character. A completely different profile compared to Laphroaig. Also, when used in an Old Fashioned. The flavors are balanced well, not too bold, and not too overpowering. -A delicate and easy to sip Scotch Old Fashioned.
Aberlour 14 years
Region: Speyside, Scotland
Taste: Malt, peach, and pineapple
Aberlour 14 years is a Scotch Whisky that originates - as the name suggests- in Aberlour, Scotland. It is distilled in pot stills then aged 14 years in oak casks. It shows quite some similarities to the Balvenie Scotch mentioned above. Both are from Speyside, both bottled at 40% ABV, and both aged in Bourbon barrels and Oloroso Sherry casks. However, Aberlour uses new and unused Bourbon barrels.
The flavor profile of the Whisky also shows similarities. Soft aromas of vanilla, caramel, and malt dominate the taste. Balanced by distinctive oak spice and accompanied by a few roasted and peppery tones and a slight chili spiciness on the tongue.
Aberlour 14 years is a great Scotch to use in an Old Fashioned. It has a lot of flavor and complexity that pairs well with the other ingredients in the drink but without overly peaty and smoky notes.
The best Old Fashioned Whiskey...
…is the one that suits your tastebuds best. Bourbon, Rye, and Scotch are all highly different in aroma, flavor, and taste. My recommendation is to experiment with the different types of Whiskey first. And once you know if you prefer a Bourbon, Rye, or Scotch Old Fashioned, you can start to dig deeper. Do you have a favorite Whiskey to make a Whiskey Old Fashioned? Let me know in the comments.
And in case you want to tweak your Old Fashioned recipe with some non-standard bitters, have a look at our selection of the best cocktail bitters for an Old Fashioned cocktail.