Old Fashioned from Watershed Distillery Review Header

Old Fashioned from Watershed Distillery Review

In Bottled Cocktails by 3 Comments

“A classic Old Fashioned made with quality ingredients; simply uncork, pour over ice and enjoy.”Watershed Distillery
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  • DISTILLER: Watershed Distillery
  • MAKE UP: Watershed bourbon with premium bitters, raw sugar and Ohio cherry juice
  • YEAR: 2019
  • PROOF: 33-36% ABV -varies by batch (34.4% reviewed)
  • MSRP: $34.99 / 750ml
  • BUY ONLINE: Wine-Searcher.com

NOSE: Cinnamon & Clove  |  Cherry  |  Alcohol

TASTE: Watershed Bourbon  |  Clove  |  Cherry  |  Oak

FINISH: The finish (sampled neat) is overwhelmingly the cinnamon / clove spice that I would attribute to the bitters. A little bit of the cherry sweetness tries to hang on, but quickly succumbs to the spice.  It is very tannic on the tongue, but when enjoyed over ice, as intended, that effect is much less noticeable and the palate is actually rather mild. While fairly tasty, it lacks the punch I look for in a higher proof Old Fashioned.

SHARE WITH: Impatient friends who enjoy mild, lower ABV Old Fashioneds.

WORTH THE PRICE: For $5.00 more, I would rather buy a bottle of the 94 proof Watershed Bourbon and make my own Old Fashioned.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: I’m afraid this falls into the Bust category for me. It’s not ‘bad’ per say, but I also won’t be encouraging my friends to seek it out. And if they serve this at a bar when you order an Old Fashioned… well, you should probably go to a different bar.

OVERALL: Ask 20 different people to make you an Old Fashioned and you’ll likely get 20 different variations of this classic cocktail. While it has very few ingredients, the options within those basic ingredients can vary widely. Rye whiskey or bourbon? High proof or low? 1 oz or 2? Orange or cherries? Maybe you like both - or maybe neither. Then there’s the bitters… 1 dash or 5? Agnostura bitters? Orange bitters? Chocolate bitters? Even the sugar used will affect the taste. Raw sugar, refined sugar, simple syrup, agave syrup, artificial sugars… and so on.

While I really enjoyed the Watershed Bourbon on its own (reviewed here), their ready-to-drink Old Fashioned falls flat for me. The nose is enticing, with spice and faint cherry; and the basic profile of the Watershed Bourbon comes through on both the nose and the palate, but as a whole, it was on the mild side and left me wanting something more. The saying “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at the office” comes to mind, and with some exception, I’m sure, a less-than-stellar Old Fashioned is better than no Old Fashioned at all. While I haven’t gone fishing since I was a kid, I do drink my fair share of Old Fashioneds, so I was really looking forward to testing a pre-made. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s convenient... the only problem is, I just don’t love it. But I won’t say it’s bad either, I just like my own much better.

Just because you had a bad day fishing, you don’t have to give up and never go fishing again. Maybe you try a new spot or use different bait. And just because I don’t love this drink on its own, doesn’t mean I can’t add a twist of orange peel or an extra splash of whiskey to pump up the ABV... but that kind of defeats the purpose of a ready-to-drink cocktail.

I wanted to get another perspective on it, so I used my wife as an unknowing test subject. Every Saturday after dinner, as we’re settling in for the evening, I run into the kitchen to whip up a few Old Fashioneds while she prepares a snack and gets BattleBots cued up on the DVR. I have several different whiskies I like to use, but she has her favorite, so that’s what I usually use for our weekly ritual. Well, spoiler alert, this time I just poured 2 oz of the pre-made Old Fashioned into our glasses over a large ice cube and brought them back to the TV room as usual.

I waited for her to get 2 or 3 sips in before I asked her how she liked it. “It’s pretty good” she said. “But it tastes a little different... what did you do to it?” So I filled her in on what it was and told her I was trying to get her honest reaction to it. She liked the flavor but noted that it was much milder (translated as not as much alcohol content) than our usual drink... but to her, that was a good thing. We also like orange with our Old Fashioneds, and in fact she prefers Orange bitters to Angostura, so while she did like the lower abv, it was a bit on the spicy side for her. But overall, she liked it more than I did.

A few days later, my mother stopped by, and since I’ve turned her on to Old Fashioneds too, I wanted to see what she thought of it. Nothing sneaky this time, I just pulled out the bottle and let her look it over while I got the glasses and some ice. Her reaction?? “Eh... It’s ok. A little weak, but I guess it would do in a pinch.” She took another sip and made that deep-in-thought face, and finally said “You know what it’s missing??.... Orange”. I can’t blame Watershed for that, it’s just a personal preference of ours, but I have to agree with her when she says an Old Fashioned just isn’t an Old Fashioned without orange.

So, mixed reviews. None of us DIS-liked it, and in fact my wife will probably end up drinking most of what’s left, but no one was blown away either. My mother suggested it might be a good bottle to bring along on a road trip so you could have a no fuss cocktail in the evening without having to bring along all the different ingredients. Good point... but for me, if I’m only bringing one bottle on a road trip, it’s just going to be a bottle of my favorite whisky. #drinkcurious

Learn more about Jarrod's whiskey preferences and check out more of his reviews…

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Disclaimer: Watershed Distillery provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.

About the Author

Jarrod Lapato


Jarrod, also known as "Mr. Scotch", is relatively new to the world of whiskey. Born in Pittsburgh, PA, he graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Finance and is now living in St. Augustine, FL with his wife and cat. While his career so far has run the gamut from stockbroker to small business owner, Personal Trainer to Acquisitions Specialist for the county, he is currently enjoying a little time off to work on personal projects and explore new opportunities. He has been fine tuning his taste for Scotch Whisky over the past few years and has recently begun to expand his personal whiskey collection to include selections from other regions of the world, with a strong representation of the American made spirits... bourbon and rye whiskies. Hobbies include travel, photography, woodworking, home rehabbing... and working on that never ending whiskey wishlist. Read Jarrod's full profile.

  • I loved this review! Very thorough and thoughtful. I also don’t make Old Fashioneds unless I have an orange. I prefer blood orange, but they need an orange in my opinion.

  • Robert Prince says:

    Had never heard of Watershed Bourbon before so obviously I can’t comment on the taste other than I strongly agree re the inclusion of Orange in my Old Fashioneds.
    I place a small cube brown sugar on a small slice of orange peel (about the size of an oval quarter). I then douse the sugar cube with two shakes of orange bitters and a single shake of regular bitters which I muddle around the base of the cocktail glass.
    I then add a 1.25 sphere of ice and pour over the ice 3 oz of bourbon – my house bourbon for that is Bulleit.
    I finish the drink off with a splash of Q club soda, a Luxardo cherry and a thin half-slice of orange.

  • Terry Boczar says:

    Great review and I love that the women in your family love a good old fashioned too! Obviously decerning women! I like mine with orange as well, muddled with a cherry or 2. My go-to is Woodford but I’m willing to try anything :). I’d give this a try if its in my market.