Ratings: The 8 Best Whiskeys for Old Fashioneds | Wine Enthusiast
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The 8 Best Whiskeys for Old Fashioneds

All featured products are independently selected by our editorial team or contributors. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

When it comes to classic cocktails, not many are more recognized than the Old Fashioned. At its core it is a relatively easy cocktail to make — just a few simple ingredients of whiskey, bitters and sugar. From there, you can make it your own. You might add a garnish of orange or cherries, but changing any of the standard ingredients will change the drink.

The great debate is usually about what kind of whiskey to use. There is no wrong answer for this. If you like your drink on the sweeter side, you will use bourbon. If you like a spicier bite, you should go with rye. Both are widely available at bars and your local liquor store. But for something different, swap the bitters for an amaro. The options are endless. Happy mixing!!

Here are some whiskeys highly rated by our spirits reviewer, Kara Newman, that we recommend to switch up your Old Fashioned.

Old Hamer Straight Rye

Wine Enthusiast Rating: 93 Points

Vanilla and maple aromas mingle with an herbaceous, amarolike hint. The brisk palate balances vanilla and Christmas spices, drying to a pleasingly bitter bite. The clove-allspice notes are similar to Angostura bitters, making this a natural to mix into Old Fashioneds. Best Buy. —Kara Newman

$36 Total Wine & More

Kuiper Belt Aged 8 Years Straight Kentucky Bourbon

Wine Enthusiast Rating: 94 Points

Named for a ring of icy bodies that orbit the sun, this small-batch whiskey is aged, as the producer says, “eight earth orbits around the sun.” Look for a gentle cinnamon scent and a spicy-sweet palate. Adding water plays up the caramel note and layers on succulent toffee richness. It’s robust enough to enjoy with a big cube of ice or mixed into an Old Fashioned. 100 Best Spirits of 2021 —K.N.

$105 Total Wine & More

Sipes’ Double Oaked Smoked Barrel Bourbon

Wine Enthusiast Rating: 87 Points

This Bourbon is for fans of the smoked Old Fashioned trend. It features savory, smoky mesquite notes on nose and palate. Liquid smoke and bacon overshadow a core of vanilla and maple, finishing with plenty of black pepper. Overall, this reads like peppered maple bacon. This is a four-year-old Bourbon finished in a smoked barrel. —K.N.

$60 Total Wine & More

Bare Knuckle Straight Wheat Whiskey

Wine Enthusiast Rating: 90 Points

This single barrel Virginia local hero starts with wheat, rye and barley sourced from local Virginia farms; the barley is then malted by Copper Fox, another Virginia distillery. It’s aged at least two years and bottled at cask strength. Add all the water, which focuses the spicy core, and lets mocha, oak and vanilla shine through. A hint of cherry in the aroma suggests Manhattans and Old Fashioneds to come. —K.N.

$37 Wine-Searcher

Border Bourbon

Wine Enthusiast Rating: 93 Points

Enticing oak and vanilla aromas are joined by a hint of black cherry. The palate is deep and complex, opening with plenty of oak integrated with vanilla, drying espresso and cayenne heat. Adding water tames the fire, bringing out more vanilla and black cherry. Sip or mix. This should make for a fierce Old Fashioned. Top 100 Spirits 2018 —K.N.

$38 Total Wine & More

Trail’s End Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Wine Enthusiast Rating: 89 Points

His Kentucky Bourbon “finished with Oregon oak staves” offers a caramel and coconut scent that is echoed on the silky, lightly sweet palate, finishing with nutmeg, clove and a wallop of alcohol heat. It’s recommended for mixing into old fashioneds and other cocktails. —K.N.

$44 Total Wine & More

Four Roses Yellow Label

Wine Enthusiast Rating: 94 Points

Consider this blended Bourbon for dessert pairings or a fruit-spiked Old Fashioned. Look for caramel and dried-cherry aromas and a flavor akin to dark chocolate-covered cherries. The long, mouthwatering finish is dark and decadent, evoking chocolate, espresso, Port, leather, nutmeg and clove. Best Buy. —K.N.

$24 The Whisky Exchange

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Wine Enthusiast Rating: 94 Points

Pleasantly sweet nose. Medium body and sticky-toffee flavor. This would be great mixed into cocktails, because the flavor is smooth but bold at the same time; it would blend without being completely lost. Finishes mellow, smooth, with just enough alcohol bite. Easy to like. Think Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds. —K.N.

$32 Reserve Bar


What Is the Best Whiskey for an Old Fashioned?

Whiskey can have a whole host of flavor profiles and aromas, so, take your time exploring this expansive spirit category to find your favorite. (This might be the most fun homework assignment of all time.) As far as the best whiskeys for an Old Fashioned, we’d recommend anything on this list. Another spirit to consider? “Bulleit,” says Craig Chamberlain, Wine Enthusiast‘s senior tasting coordinator and Virginia wine reviewer. “It’s an old standby that works well in cocktails and is widely available. It’s also a great value and price.”

What Is the Best Rye Whiskey for an Old Fashioned?

Rye whiskey is known for its strength and spiced notes. That’s why it lends beautifully to an Old Fashioned. From the whiskeys in this list, we’d recommend Bare Knuckle Straight Wheat Whiskey and Old Hamer Straight Rye. But there are countless other rye options to explore.

What Are Old Fashioned Variants?

With just three simple ingredients plus a garnish, the classic Old Fashioned cocktail is the perfect drink to riff on. Try adding syrup and salt for a maple bacon version. Or try the bonfire Old Fashioned, which utilizes syrup made with Demerara, a type of raw sugar extracted from sugarcane. And while whiskey is the classic Old Fashioned base, you can substitute it with rum, brandy, applejack, reposado tequila, barrel-aged gin or genever. And instead of a simple syrup, use honey or small amount of liquor on the sweeter side, like an amaro.

How Do You Make an Old Fashioned?

With countless riffs, the Old Fashioned is entirely customizable to your palate. However, at its core, the Old Fashioned is just bourbon or rye whiskey, a sugar cube, bitters and a lemon or orange peel for garnish. You can check out the full recipe, plus the story of this drink’s history which spans over 100 years—here.

Why You Should Trust Us

All products featured here are independently selected by our team, which is comprised of experienced writers and wine tasters and overseen by editorial professionals at Wine Enthusiast headquarters. All ratings and reviews are performed blind in a controlled setting and reflect the parameters of our 100-point scale. Wine Enthusiast does not accept payment to conduct any product review, though we may earn a commission on purchases made through links on this site. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

This post was updated on 02/14/2023.

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