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The 8 Best Whiskeys for Old Fashioneds

The 8 Best Whiskeys for Old Fashioneds

One of the oldest, simplest and best-loved classic cocktails, the Old Fashioned is also one of the most versatile. The first known definition of the drink—“spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters”—dates to 1806. By the mid-1800s, it was solidified as the “Old-Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail,” eventually shortened to simply the “Old Fashioned,” with the “whiskey” part implied.

You May Also Like: In Wisconsin, A Distinctive Take on an Old Fashioned Cocktail

So, while whiskey is one of the key elements that makes the drink shine, it can encompass a wide range of styles: bourbon, rye, Tennessee whiskey, you name it. Some aficionados even like to split their Old Fashioned up with a blend of two or more whiskeys. From there, a variety of sugars or sugar syrups can be used, as can various bitters and garnishes, such as citrus peels and brandied cherries, to add complexity or accent the flavors of the whiskey base. The possibilities are endless.

Whether you want to play around or have a preferred variation on the classic cocktail, we’ve got you covered. Below, we’ve rounded up top whiskey picks that make this iconic drink sing. From sweeter bourbon and spicier rye, to budget-picks, splurge-worthy bottles and everything in between, these are the best whiskeys for Old Fashioneds.

Best Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

Four Roses Small Batch Select

Created by master distiller Brent Elliott to mark the distillery’s grand reopening, this Bourbon is the first permanent addition to the portfolio since 2006. This is a concentrated sip—even with plenty of water—showing warm, toasty vanilla, sugar cookies and buttery brioche, finishing extra-long and drying, accented by plenty of baking spice. It’s a real lip-smacker. 90 Points  — Kara Newman 

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Best Cask-Strength Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon

Aged 11 years and five months, the latest edition in the Barrel Proof series is a straight-up vanilla bomb, start to finish. Along the way, espresso and hints of dark fruit, clove and black pepper add complexity, ending long and super-drying, with oak and toasted almond. Batch #B523. 93 Points  — K.N.

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Best Rye for an Old Fashioned

Best Tennessee Whiskey for an Old Fashioned

George Dickel Rye Whiskey

Sarsaparilla and cinnamon mingle with whiffs of cedar shavings. The palate opens with oak, vanilla and an echo of sarsaparilla, drying to charcoal, honey and chamomile, finishing long with an espresso accent. A splash of water brings a pleasing maple note forward. Best Buy. 93 Points  — K.N.

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Best Wheated Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

Old Emmer Cask Strength Bourbon

This name of this wheated bourbon pays homage to Old Emmer, an ancient wheat strain. Look for a mild maple aroma and pleasing vanilla, orange peel and honey on the palate, finishing with fiery cinnamon and a ginger glow. 92 Points  — K.N.

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Best High-Rye Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

High N’ Wicked Bourbon

This super-high-rye bourbon is complex and enticing. Mellow toffee and oak aromas lead into a silky but spicy palate. Sarsaparilla, allspice, nutmeg and clove surround a faint ripple of butterscotch. The relatively dry finish offers hints of cedar, roasted grain and cigar tobacco. 95 Points  — K.N.

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Best Budget Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

Larceny Bourbon

Copper in the glass, this wheated Bourbon offers allspice and cola aromas. The first sips are nutty and a touch drying, leading into hints of vanilla wafer and butterscotch, finishing with ginger and clove sparks. Best Buy. 92 Points  — K.N.

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Best Splurge Bourbon for an Old Fashioned

Barrell Vantage

Barrell has long focused on blending and creative cask finishes; this is no different, with a mix of straight bourbons distilled in Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky, finished in Japanese Mizunara, French oak, and toasted American oak, and bottled at cask strength. Oak and maple aromas mingle with a hint of apricot. The big, bold palate suggests honey drizzled over stone fruit, while lemon-peel brightens the clove-accented finish. 94 Points  — K.N.

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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.

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