For many, an Old Fashioned cocktail is the epitome of a perfect Whiskey drink. The template is straightforward: Just take a great Whiskey, sugar, and some bitters.
That leaves plenty of room for interpretation. Changing any of these three components will alter the taste of your Old Fashioned. And the Whiskey base easily has the biggest impact on the result.
A common question is which type of Whiskey should be used, but you won't get a universal answer. You can use Bourbon if you prefer a sweeter drink, Rye if you like a kick of spice or even Scotch for some smoky notes in your Old Fashioned.
Our favorite pick is the Whistle Pig Rye 10-year because of its unique fruity flavor profile, paired with spicy rye notes. It's boozy enough to keep these bold flavors up even after dilution.
If you want to tweak your drink beyond the base spirit, I recommend having a look at the different bitters to use in this drink.
So, let's look at our list of the best Whiskey for Old Fashioned cocktails.
Our Top Picks
- Best Overall: Whistlepig Rye 10-year
- Best Bourbon: Eagle Rare 10-year
- Best Rye (runner up): Willet Family Estate Four-Year Rye
- Best Scotch Whisky: Aberlour 14 years
- Best budget Bourbon: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
1. Eagle Rare 10 year Bourbon
Taste: Oak, vanilla, orange, and spice
Price: $45 per 750ml bottle
Eagle Rare 10-year Bourbon is a 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.
Eagle Rare is aged for ten years in new charred oak barrels. It has a complex and woody flavor profile with notes of vanilla, toffee, and oak. It feels like these flavors could be even more pronounced if the spirit were a tad stronger.
Why we like it: Eagle Rare is one of the best Bourbon for Old Fashioned drinks. It contains enough alcohol, has a beautifully balanced flavor profile, and an overall mature flavor profile,
2. Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
Taste: Oak, sweet vanilla, caramel, and leather
Price: $45 per 750ml bottle
Woodford Reserve Double Oaked Bourbon is aged in two different oak barrels. For this, the Woodford took their Reserve Distiller's Select and aged it in a second, fresh, and highly-toasted oak barrel for one additional year.
One would expect that the oaky notes are far more pronounced than they are. In fact, the extra aging also brings out balancing sweet aromas. That results in a Bourbon with a complex and diverse profile.
This Double-Oaked Whiskey is a splendid choice for an oaky Bourbon Old Fashioned cocktail. The sweet and oaky flavor pairs brilliantly with the orange and bitters in the cocktail.
Why we like it: We love the extra oaky notes in this Bourbon and its super smooth finish.
3. Bulleit Bourbon
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, clean finish with a slight toffee note. And Bulleit is a mildly spiced Bourbon that also carries some sweet oak notes.
Why we like it: The low price point combined with Bulleit Bourbon's bold and complex flavors. We also love balanced spiciness that also shines through, without taking away from the other notes in the drink.
4. 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. That makes it one of the few Bourbons that include wheat as a secondary grain.
Only a few brands produce wheated Bourbons. Makers Mark is the most famous one and the greatest competitor. But while Makers Mark is more polarizing and emphasizes the unique character of wheat in the mash bill, Larceny created something that appeals to a broader audience.
Why we like it: The notes of spicy cherry in the spirit make this Whiskey a beautiful and unique fit in an Old Fashioned cocktail.
5. 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.
Elijah Craig Barrel-Proof is exceptionally smooth with a long, lingering finish. It is perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks. A bold and boozy Bourbon with an enormous variety of flavors. And even though it is hard to believe, it also makes a delicious Old Fashioned cocktail.
Why we like it: The Barrel-Proof strength of this Elijah Craig bottle combined with the exceptional smooth taste makes it an elegant choice of Bourbon for a high-proof Old Fashioned.
6. 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 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 mellow. Yet, as with every Single Barrel, there is variation depending on the individual cask.
Anthony Belcuifini, a bartender at Animae in San Diego, is also an advocate of this Whiskey:
"Four Roses ... checks all of the boxes for a value bourbon. It’s very reasonably priced, widely available, incredibly easy to drink, and has enough flavor to shine through any cocktail application."
Why we like it: It's an affordable Single Barrel Bourbon with a great profile. Four Roses Single Barrel is quite fruity and sweet with notes of vanilla, cocoa, baked apples, and honey. This leads to a wonderfully complex Bourbon Old Fashioned.
7. 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 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.
Andres Bedoya - lead bartender at the Apothecary 330 in Fort Lauderdale also sums up:
"for an Old Fashioned, my go-to is Buffalo Trace. The brand is a staple in the Bourbon community known for distilling consistently quality Bourbon."
Why we like it: Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a brilliant pick if you are on a budget or throwing a party. -It is doubtlessly among the best cheap Bourbon option for making a really good Old Fashioned.
8. 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 aged for ten years in oak barrels. That gives it a unique flavor that you hardly find in other Whiskeys.
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.
Why we like it: That unusual fruity flavor profile makes this Rye stand out. Used as an ingredient in an Old Fashioned, the addition of sugar and bitters help to unfold even more flavors and aromas making it our pick for the best Rye for Old Fashioned cocktails.
9. Wild Turkey 101 Rye
Taste: Grain, spice, mint, oat, and apple
You want a quality Rye Whiskey? Then 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 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.
Why we like it: The 101 proof is bold enough to fill your throat with spice without being overpowering. Plus, we love the hints of minty notes that it brings to your mixed drinks.
10. 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 is not surprising. Instead, the spirit shows some typical Bourbon notes from the high ratio of corn in the mash bill.
Why we like it: Due to its unique flavor profile somewhere between Rye and Bourbon, Woodford Reserve Rye truly makes for a delicious Old Fashioned Whiskey.
11. 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 is only aged for four years, the resulting spirit is excellent. An exciting Rye Whiskey, superbly distilled, with a complex aroma and flavor profile.
Why we like it: Here and there, you can find some floral and botanical notes. Together with some sugar and aromatic cocktail bitters, this spirit unfolds its whole array of flavors when mixed in an OF.
12. 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, balanced by intense and sweet vanilla. Tasting and chewing it a bit longer will bring out additional notes like Graham crackers, peanuts, and candy.
Old Overholt is a good choice for cocktails that call for Rye Whiskey, and it is 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.
Why we like it: Old Overholt is an excellent choice if you are after a budget-friendly Rye to use in Old Fashioneds.
13. 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. So don't miss out on their famous malting floor when visiting the distillery.
If you want a classic smoky Scotch, Laphroaig 10 is a great option. It is 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.
We know this pick is controversial as Scotch lovers tend to prefer their Whisky neat to appreciate the flavors of the spirit. -I do as well. But hear me out, by adding the right bitters and a flavorful syrup you can create something truly special, far from your regular serve of Laphroaig.
Why we like it: We love the smokiness Laphroaig brings to the drink. If you're not a fan of peaty flavors, stay away from this bottle.
14. 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 led to the name Double Wood. More than twenty years later, it is apparent that this experiment was highly successful.
Balvenie first ages their Scotch in ex-Bourbon barrels for 12 years. After that, the spirit ages for an additional 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.
Why we like it: The flavors are balanced well, not too bold, and not too overpowering. -Creating a delicate and easy-to-sip Scotch Old Fashioned.
15. 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 and then aged for 14 years in oak casks.
The production process is similar to that of Balvenie Scotch. Both are from Speyside, bottled at 40% ABV, and aged in Bourbon barrels and Oloroso Sherry casks. The main difference here is that Aberlour uses new and unused Bourbon casks.
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.
Why we like it: Aberlour 14 years is an excellent Whisky to use in an Old Fashioned. It has a lot of flavor and complexity and pairs well with the other ingredients in the drink without adding overly peaty and smoky notes.
Choosing the best Whiskey for your Old Fashioned cocktail strongly depends on your preference. There are superb options available for Bourbon, Rye, and Scotch.
Overall our favorite Old Fashioned Whiskey is Whistle Pig's 10-year Rye. This spirit combines everything you want from a Whiskey in an Old Fashioned: fruity flavors that go with bitters and sugar, a high alcohol content, and a slightly spicy edge.
Eagle Rare 10-year-old Bourbon is another of our go-to options, as is Aberlour 14, a Whisky from Speyside.
Why Trust Cocktail Society
This article was written and edited by Timo Torner. Timo is not only a certified bartender but has been writing about bartending, cocktails, and spirits for more than 10 years.
He visited various distilleries, wineries, and cocktail bars, tasting raw Tequila in Jalisco, Mojitos in Cuba, Soju in South Korea, and red wine in Cape Town and Australia.
His favorite spirits are Gin and Mezcal, but he also has a soft spot for all kinds of aged spirits like Rum, Whisky, and Brandy.
Read more about us here.
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