With Jackie Zykan’s abrupt departure from Old Forester a few weeks ago, the distillery’s 117 Series — which was billed as her creation and famously features her signature — will soon have to go in a new direction (or be discontinued altogether). This fourth installment in the series is Zykan’s swan song, a bourbon designed to honor “the bravery of the Louisville Fire Department” during a four-alarm fire that raged in downtown Louisville in July 2015.
There’s some interesting backstory to the release:
In 2020, men and women of Louisville Fire, many of whom fought the blaze, selected eight single barrels from a lot filled the same day they extinguished the fire. All 8 barrels sold out in two days and proceeds were donated to the Louisville Firefighter Disaster Fund. The remainder of the barrels filled that day slumbered an additional two years in the warehouse and are now batched together to create the 117 Series – Whiskey Row Fire barrels. (You’ll also see these billed as “Fireman Barrels.” -Ed.)
The finished whiskey is 7 years old. Let’s give Zykan’s swan song a try.
Aggressive and wood-forward, this has all the makings of a classic Old Forester expression, with hearty but agreeable notes of leather and furniture polish on the nose, but with a subtle cherry character underneath. It’s perfectly approachable on the palate, notes of honey and graham crackers sweetening things moderately while letting notes of dark chocolate and spice do the heavy lifting. Toasty and oaky on the finish, with chocolate and vanilla notes both lingering, this ultimately emerges as good, moderately mature bourbon with very few surprises in store for the drinker. Nothing wrong with that, really; any bourbon fan will find this a solid, workhorse sipper.
A- / $60 / oldforester.com