What Whiskey for Old Fashioned: Top Picks & Expert Recommendations

Rate this post

Whiskey selection can significantly impact the flavor profile of an Old Fashioned, one of the oldest and most beloved classic cocktails. In this guide, we’ll explore the best whiskey choices for crafting the perfect Old Fashioned, considering various factors such as flavor profiles, whiskey styles, and budget considerations.

What is the Old Fashioned Cocktail?

The best whiskies for an Old Fashioned - Decanter

Before delving into whiskey choices, let’s briefly introduce the Old Fashioned cocktail. Dating back to the early 19th century, the Old Fashioned is a timeless concoction consisting of whiskey, sugar, water, and bitters. Its simplicity allows for endless variations, making it a favorite among cocktail enthusiasts worldwide.

The Old Fashioned cocktail is a classic drink that has stood the test of time, remaining popular for over two centuries. It is often hailed as one of the oldest and simplest cocktails, known for its timeless appeal and versatile nature. The cocktail’s roots can be traced back to the early 19th century, with the first known definition of the drink appearing in 1806. At its core, the Old Fashioned is a combination of whiskey, sugar, water, and bitters.


  • Whiskey: The backbone of the Old Fashioned, whiskey provides the base spirit for the cocktail. Traditionally, bourbon or rye whiskey is used, but other variations, such as Tennessee whiskey, can also be employed.
  • Sugar: A sweetening agent, sugar is used to balance the bitterness of the bitters and the intensity of the whiskey. While a sugar cube was historically used, simple syrup has become a popular alternative for easier incorporation.
  • Water: Water is added to dilute the drink slightly, helping to mellow the flavors and create a smoother drinking experience.
  • Bitters: Bitters are aromatic flavorings made from botanicals, herbs, and spices. They add depth and complexity to the cocktail, enhancing the overall flavor profile. Angostura bitters are the most common choice for an Old Fashioned, but other varieties can also be used for experimentation.


  1. Muddle: In a mixing glass or directly in the serving glass, muddle the sugar cube (or simple syrup) with a few dashes of bitters until the sugar is dissolved and the bitters are evenly distributed.
  2. Add Whiskey: Pour the whiskey over the muddled mixture.
  3. Stir: Add ice to the glass and stir gently to chill the drink and further dilute it.
  4. Strain: If prepared in a mixing glass, strain the mixture into a chilled rocks glass filled with ice. If prepared directly in the serving glass, no straining is necessary.
  5. Garnish: Garnish the cocktail with a twist of citrus peel (typically lemon or orange), expressing the oils over the surface of the drink before dropping it in. Some variations may also include a maraschino cherry or an additional sugar cube as garnish.


The simplicity of the Old Fashioned allows for endless variations and interpretations. While the classic recipe calls for whiskey, sugar, water, and bitters, creative bartenders have developed countless riffs on the traditional formula. Variations may include different types of sugar, alternative sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, and unique bitters blends. Additionally, the choice of whiskey can significantly impact the flavor profile of the cocktail, with each style offering its own distinct characteristics.

Whiskey Styles

Whiskey, also spelled whisky in some regions, is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. It is aged in wooden casks, typically oak, which impart flavor and character to the spirit. Whiskey comes in various styles, each with its own unique characteristics and flavor profiles. Understanding these styles is essential for selecting the right whiskey to use in cocktails like the Old Fashioned. Here’s a deeper look into some common whiskey styles:


  • Definition: Bourbon is a type of American whiskey that must be made from at least 51% corn and aged in new charred oak barrels.
  • Flavor Profile: Bourbon is known for its rich, sweet, and smooth flavor profile. It often exhibits notes of caramel, vanilla, oak, and sometimes hints of cinnamon or spice.
  • Examples: Four Roses Small Batch Select, Larceny Bourbon.


  • Definition: Rye whiskey is made from a mash bill that consists of at least 51% rye grain. It is known for its bold and spicy flavor profile.
  • Flavor Profile: Rye whiskey typically exhibits robust flavors of pepper, cinnamon, herbs, and sometimes fruity or floral notes. It tends to have a drier and spicier finish compared to bourbon.
  • Examples: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon, Old Hamer Straight Rye.

Tennessee Whiskey

  • Definition: Tennessee whiskey is similar to bourbon but undergoes an additional charcoal filtering process known as the Lincoln County Process.
  • Flavor Profile: Tennessee whiskey shares many flavor characteristics with bourbon, including sweetness and oakiness. However, it often has a smoother and slightly charcoal-filtered taste.
  • Examples: George Dickel Rye Whiskey.

Wheated Bourbon

  • Definition: Wheated bourbon is a subtype of bourbon that replaces the traditional rye grain with wheat in the mash bill.
  • Flavor Profile: Wheated bourbons tend to be softer and smoother than traditional bourbons, with a focus on wheat sweetness and creamy mouthfeel.
  • Examples: Old Emmer Cask Strength Bourbon.

High-Rye Bourbon

  • Definition: High-rye bourbon contains a higher proportion of rye grain in the mash bill compared to traditional bourbon.
  • Flavor Profile: High-rye bourbons are known for their bold and complex flavor profiles, with pronounced spicy and floral notes. They often have a dry finish with hints of black pepper and clove.
  • Examples: High N’ Wicked Bourbon.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Whiskey

When selecting whiskey for an Old Fashioned, several factors should be taken into account:

Flavor Preference

  • Sweet vs. Spicy: Consider whether you prefer a sweeter or spicier flavor profile in your cocktail. Whiskeys vary widely in taste, with some leaning towards rich caramel and vanilla notes (common in bourbon) and others showcasing bold spices and pepperiness (typical of rye whiskey).
  • Complexity: Some whiskeys offer a more complex flavor profile with layers of different tasting notes. If you enjoy exploring nuanced flavors, look for whiskies with depth and complexity that can elevate your cocktail experience.


  • Affordability: Whiskeys come in a wide range of price points, from budget-friendly options to luxury bottles. Determine your budget and look for whiskies that offer good value for money within your price range.
  • Value for Money: Consider the quality of the whiskey relative to its price. While some higher-priced bottles may offer exceptional quality and craftsmanship, there are also many affordable options that deliver excellent flavor and satisfaction.


  • Accessibility: Choose whiskies that are readily available in your area to ensure ease of purchase and availability when you need them. While rare and limited-edition bottles can be enticing, they may be difficult to find and may come with a higher price tag.
  • Local Options: Explore local distilleries and brands in your region, as they may offer unique and interesting whiskies that are not widely distributed. Supporting local producers can also add a personal touch to your cocktail selection.

Personal Preference

  • Experimentation: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different whiskies to find your perfect match. Taste preferences can vary widely from person to person, so trust your palate and explore a variety of options to discover what suits you best.
  • Feedback: Seek recommendations from friends, bartenders, or online reviews to discover new whiskies and gain insights into their flavor profiles and characteristics.

Cocktail Suitability

Compatibility with Cocktail Recipe: Consider how the whiskey’s flavor profile will complement the other ingredients in your cocktail recipe, such as sugar, bitters, and garnishes. Whiskies with sweeter, milder flavors may pair well with citrus-forward cocktails, while spicier, bolder whiskies can stand up to stronger flavors and spices.

By carefully considering these factors, you can select the perfect whiskey for your Old Fashioned cocktail, ensuring a delicious and satisfying drinking experience. Whether you prioritize flavor, affordability, availability, or personal preference, there’s a whiskey out there to suit every taste and occasion.

Top Picks for Old Fashioned Whiskeys

Based on flavor profiles, value for money, and availability, here are our top picks for whiskeys to use in an Old Fashioned:

Four Roses Small Batch Select

Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon - NosVino

  • Price: $53
  • Flavor Profile: Rich and toasty with warm vanilla and baking spice notes.
  • Availability: Widely available.

Four Roses Small Batch Select is a premium bourbon whiskey crafted by Four Roses Distillery, renowned for its dedication to quality and tradition. As a part of the Four Roses lineup, Small Batch Select embodies the distillery’s commitment to excellence and innovation, delivering a bourbon experience that is both sophisticated and memorable.

Small Batch Select is meticulously crafted using a blend of six unique bourbon recipes, carefully selected by master distiller Brent Elliott. Each recipe is aged for a minimum of six years and then expertly blended to create a harmonious and complex flavor profile. The result is a bourbon that showcases the best qualities of Four Roses’ distinct yeast strains and high-quality ingredients.

One of the most notable aspects of Four Roses Small Batch Select is its high proof, bottled at 104 proof (52% alcohol by volume). This higher proof gives the bourbon an added intensity and depth of flavor, allowing the nuances of the bourbon to shine through with each sip.

The flavor profile of Small Batch Select is rich and robust, with notes of warm vanilla, caramel, and toasty oak complemented by hints of baking spice and dried fruit. The bourbon offers a velvety smooth mouthfeel, with a long and satisfying finish that leaves a lasting impression on the palate.

Small Batch Select is a versatile bourbon that can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as the foundation for classic bourbon cocktails like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan. Its well-balanced flavor profile and bold character make it a favorite among whiskey enthusiasts seeking a premium drinking experience.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon

Bourbon, “Barrel Proof”, Elijah Craig 12 Year, 750mL - Michael's Wine Cellar

  • Price: $75
  • Flavor Profile: Intensely vanilla-forward with hints of dark fruit and spice.
  • Availability: Limited batches but can be found at select retailers.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon is a highly acclaimed whiskey produced by Heaven Hill Distillery, renowned for its rich flavor, high proof, and exceptional craftsmanship. Named after the Reverend Elijah Craig, a historical figure credited with the invention of bourbon, this expression pays homage to the distillery’s heritage and commitment to quality.

What sets Elijah Craig Barrel Proof apart is its unfiltered and undiluted nature, bottled straight from the barrel at its natural proof. This results in a robust and intense flavor profile that captures the essence of the bourbon’s aging process. Each batch is carefully selected and bottled at varying proofs, allowing whiskey enthusiasts to experience the full spectrum of flavors and complexities.

The flavor profile of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is characterized by its depth and complexity, with bold flavors of rich vanilla, caramel, and toasty oak mingling with hints of dark fruit, espresso, and baking spice. The whiskey offers a full-bodied mouthfeel, with a long and satisfying finish that leaves a warm and lingering sensation on the palate.

One of the most notable aspects of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is its high proof, which typically ranges between 120 to 140 proof (60-70% alcohol by volume). This higher proof adds an extra layer of intensity and depth to the bourbon, enhancing its flavor and aroma.

George Dickel Rye Whiskey

George Dickel Rye Whisky 1.0L

  • Price: $19
  • Flavor Profile: Sarsaparilla and cinnamon with a dry, espresso finish.
  • Availability: Affordable and widely available.

George Dickel Rye Whiskey is a distinguished offering from the George Dickel distillery, known for its commitment to quality and craftsmanship. This rye whiskey stands out for its unique flavor profile, smoothness, and versatility, making it a favorite among whiskey enthusiasts.

George Dickel Rye Whiskey is crafted with a high-rye mash bill, containing at least 95% rye grain. This high rye content contributes to the whiskey’s bold and spicy character, with pronounced notes of sarsaparilla, cinnamon, and cedar shavings. The palate opens with flavors of oak, vanilla, and a subtle hint of sarsaparilla, gradually evolving into notes of charcoal, honey, and chamomile. The finish is long and satisfying, with a touch of espresso and a pleasing maple note that emerges with a splash of water.

Despite its bold flavors, George Dickel Rye Whiskey maintains a smooth and approachable profile, making it suitable for both sipping neat and mixing into cocktails. Whether enjoyed on its own or in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned, this rye whiskey delivers a memorable drinking experience that is sure to impress.

With its affordable price point and widespread availability, George Dickel Rye Whiskey offers excellent value for its quality and craftsmanship. Whether you’re a seasoned whiskey aficionado or new to the world of rye whiskey, George Dickel Rye is a versatile and satisfying choice that deserves a place in any whiskey collection.

Old Emmer Cask Strength Bourbon

  • Price: $49
  • Flavor Profile: Mild maple aroma with notes of vanilla, orange peel, and honey.
  • Availability: Reasonably priced and accessible.

Old Emmer Cask Strength Bourbon is a premium bourbon offering that exemplifies quality craftsmanship and exceptional flavor. Produced by Old Emmer Distillery, this bourbon stands out for its unique characteristics and rich, complex profile.

Crafted with care and attention to detail, Old Emmer Cask Strength Bourbon is made using traditional methods and the finest ingredients. The bourbon is aged in charred oak barrels, allowing it to develop depth and complexity over time. As a cask strength release, it is bottled at its natural proof, without dilution, ensuring that each sip delivers a full-bodied and intense flavor experience.

Old Emmer Cask Strength Bourbon offers a tantalizing aroma of mild maple, with hints of vanilla, orange peel, and honey. On the palate, it delivers a pleasing combination of flavors, including creamy vanilla, citrus zest, and a touch of honey sweetness. The bourbon finishes with a fiery cinnamon kick and a warming ginger glow, leaving a lingering impression of its bold and robust character.

With its high quality and exceptional flavor profile, Old Emmer Cask Strength Bourbon is a favorite among bourbon enthusiasts and connoisseurs. While it may come with a higher price tag, its premium quality and unmatched taste make it a worthy investment for those seeking an unforgettable bourbon experience.

Whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or in classic bourbon cocktails, Old Emmer Cask Strength Bourbon is sure to impress with its depth, complexity, and smoothness. With each sip, it offers a journey of flavor that captivates the senses and leaves a lasting impression.

High N’ Wicked Bourbon

High n' Wicked unveils two new cask strength whiskeys - American Whiskey Magazine

  • Price: $75
  • Flavor Profile: Complex and enticing with mellow toffee and spicy notes.
  • Availability: Slightly higher price point but worth the splurge.

High N’ Wicked Bourbon is a distinguished bourbon whiskey known for its complexity, enticing flavors, and unique character. Crafted by skilled distillers, this bourbon stands out among its peers for its exceptional quality and rich taste profile.

High N’ Wicked Bourbon is characterized by its high-rye mash bill, which gives it a bold and spicy flavor profile. The whiskey greets the palate with mellow toffee and oak aromas, leading into a silky yet spicy palate. Notes of sarsaparilla, allspice, nutmeg, and clove dance on the tongue, creating a symphony of flavors that tantalize the senses. A faint ripple of butterscotch adds a touch of sweetness, while the relatively dry finish offers hints of cedar, roasted grain, and cigar tobacco.

One of the most notable aspects of High N’ Wicked Bourbon is its complexity. The interplay of sweet and spicy flavors, along with its smooth and silky texture, make it a delight to savor. Whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as the base for classic bourbon cocktails, High N’ Wicked Bourbon delivers a memorable drinking experience that is sure to impress even the most discerning whiskey connoisseurs.

Despite its complexity and premium quality, High N’ Wicked Bourbon remains relatively accessible, making it a popular choice among whiskey enthusiasts. With its well-balanced flavors, enticing aroma, and smooth finish, it has earned its place as a favorite among bourbon lovers everywhere. Whether enjoyed as a special treat or as part of your regular rotation, High N’ Wicked Bourbon is sure to leave a lasting impression with its bold and captivating character.

Larceny Bourbon

Larceny Bourbon | Wine-Searcher

  • Price: $40
  • Flavor Profile: Nutty with hints of vanilla wafer and butterscotch.
  • Availability: Budget-friendly and widely distributed.

Larceny Bourbon is a renowned bourbon whiskey crafted by the Heaven Hill Distillery, known for its rich history and dedication to producing high-quality spirits. Named after the infamous act of stealing goods from bonded warehouses, Larceny Bourbon pays homage to the time-honored traditions of whiskey-making and the art of distillation.

Crafted with a high wheat mash bill, Larceny Bourbon offers a unique flavor profile characterized by its smoothness and approachability. The bourbon greets the senses with inviting aromas of allspice and cola, enticing the palate with its nutty and slightly drying initial sips. As the bourbon unfolds on the tongue, subtle hints of vanilla wafer and butterscotch emerge, adding layers of sweetness and complexity. The finish is punctuated by sparks of ginger and clove, leaving a warm and satisfying sensation that lingers long after the final sip.

Larceny Bourbon is celebrated for its versatility, making it a popular choice for both casual drinkers and seasoned whiskey aficionados. Whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as the base for classic bourbon cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Larceny Bourbon delivers a consistently enjoyable drinking experience that is sure to impress.

With its affordable price point and widespread availability, Larceny Bourbon has earned a dedicated following among whiskey enthusiasts around the world. Its smooth and approachable flavor profile, combined with its rich history and heritage, make it a timeless classic that stands the test of time. Whether savored on a special occasion or enjoyed as an everyday indulgence, Larceny Bourbon offers a taste of tradition and craftsmanship that is truly unparalleled.

Barrell Vantage

Barrell Craft Spirits Introduces Barrell Vantage – Craft Spirits Magazine

  • Price: $86
  • Flavor Profile: Oak and maple aromas with a bold honey and stone fruit palate.
  • Availability: Splurge-worthy option with limited availability.

Barrell Vantage is a distinguished bourbon whiskey crafted by Barrell Craft Spirits, known for its innovative blending techniques and exceptional flavor profiles. As part of the Barrell Craft Spirits lineup, Barrell Vantage showcases the brand’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of whiskey-making and delivering unparalleled quality to whiskey enthusiasts.

What sets Barrell Vantage apart is its unique blend of straight bourbons distilled in different regions of the United States, including Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky. This multi-state blending approach allows the distillers at Barrell Craft Spirits to harness the distinct characteristics of each bourbon, creating a final product that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Barrell Vantage undergoes a meticulous blending process, with the individual bourbons aged to perfection before being combined and finished in a variety of casks. This creative cask finishing process adds depth and complexity to the whiskey, resulting in a truly exceptional drinking experience.

The flavor profile of Barrell Vantage is characterized by its bold and dynamic palate, with aromas of oak and maple mingling with hints of apricot and honey. On the palate, the whiskey offers a rich and full-bodied experience, with flavors of honey-drizzled stone fruit and bright lemon peel accentuating the clove-accented finish. The whiskey concludes with lingering notes of cedar, roasted grain, and cigar tobacco, leaving a lasting impression on the palate.

Barrell Vantage is a premium bourbon whiskey that appeals to discerning whiskey enthusiasts seeking a truly unique and memorable drinking experience. With its innovative blending techniques, complex flavor profile, and impeccable craftsmanship, Barrell Vantage has earned its place among the elite bourbons in the world of whiskey. Whether enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as the base for craft cocktails, Barrell Vantage delivers a taste of sophistication and refinement that is sure to impress even the most discerning palates.


Choosing the right whiskey for an Old Fashioned is essential for creating a balanced and flavorful cocktail. By considering factors such as flavor preference, budget, and availability, you can select the perfect whiskey to suit your taste. Whether you opt for a smooth bourbon, spicy rye, or complex Tennessee whiskey, experimenting with different whiskeys can elevate your Old Fashioned experience and add a new dimension to this timeless classic.