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Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2014: Review and Tasting Notes

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2014: Review and Tasting Notes

oldforesterAnother year, another “birthday bourbon” from Old Forester, a brand that still seems to be a bit under the radar (an increasingly rare thing). Chris Morris, Brown-Forman’s Master Distiller wants you to know, “Old Forester is the only bourbon still in existence today that was produced before, during and after Prohibition by its original distiller.” And now you know.

This is their thirteenth annual limited release, celebrating founder George Garvin Brown’s September 2 birthday. Last year’s version had a phenomenal nose, but the rest didn’t quite live up to the lovely aromas. This year? Same idea on what’s in the bottle, all distilled on one day 12 years ago. Similar proof (down from 98 to 97). A slight bump up from $55 to $60 recommended retail price.

old forester birthday bourbonOld Forester Birthday Bourbon, 2014 Limited Bottling
97 Proof
Approx. $60 Retail
Tasting Dates: October 1 -10, 2014

The color looks a bit lighter to me than last year, more golden. The nose is similar to last year’s, though not as noteworthy in its richness, and maybe a touch less balance than last year as it leans a little hot. Toasty oak, caramel, vanilla, and some peachy fruit. There is a bit of maple here, but not much in the way of cinnamon/spice.

Neat, there’s a woodiness to this one at first, a bit dusty, and the cinnamon comes in pretty quick and lingers long. Last year it brought to mind the cinnamon-dusted, candied almonds that they sell at ballparks or street festivals – and this year I think the cinnamon is even more intense (despite not being very present on the nose). Again, nice stuff overall, but it still feels a bit off balance and slightly harsh, for a 12 year old bourbon under 100 proof.

Ice brings out the brown sugar in the nose in a very nice way, and accentuates the peachiness as well, with some bitter orange mixed in. It does indeed make for a more lush feeling while sipping, but still not as harmonious as I’d like it to be until it starts to approach watery. There’s a fine line here where the ice and bourbon reach the perfect equilibrium, but it’s fleeting.

Thirsty South Rating: Good Stuff* – it’s a very nice way to celebrate a birthday, but not a party I’d go out of my way for. I like the fact that Old Forester keeps turning out these limited releases, but wouldn’t mind seeing them play around with the age and proof  a bit to seek out something that stands out from the pack a bit more.

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* Thirsty South Rating Scale:

Wow – among the very best: knock-your-socks-off, profound, complex liquid gold!
Excellent – exceptional in quality and character, worth seeking out, highly recommended
Good Stuff – solid expression of its type/varietal, enjoyable and recommended
Fair – fairly standard or exhibiting obvious though minor flaws
Avoid – move away folks, nothing to see here, a trainwreck

Full Disclosure: Tasting sample provided by Brown-Forman.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2013: Review and Tasting Notes

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2013: Review and Tasting Notes

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Old Forester is old. 140+ years old. They’ve certainly earned the right to celebrate birthdays. For the past twelve years now, Old Forester has released a special “Birthday Bourbon” to celebrate founder George Garvin Brown’s September 2 birthday. I had never actually tried one until this year’s limited edition, which has been getting some really good word of mouth. Jason over at Sour Mash Manifesto called it a “must try” – and he’s not the only one that seems to be enjoying this birthday celebration immensely. John Hansell over on the Whisky Advocate blog called it, “the best tasting (and best balanced) OFBB release in many years.”

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2013Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 2013 Limited Bottling
98 Proof
Approx. $55 Retail
Tasting Dates: August 16-September 7, 2013

This small batch limited release was all barreled on a single day in 2001, and it’s evident that this has some good age on it. The color is a nice medium amber, on the way to maple wood. The nose is a knockout, no doubt – warm and sweet, like brown sugar caramel brownies with a healthy hit of vanilla, and a bit of peachy fruit adding some elegance.

Neat, there’s a sharp bite at first when this hits the tongue, but that mellows out pretty quickly to fall in line with the aroma. Good body, long finish, it really reminds me of those cinnamon-dusted, candied almonds that they sell at ballparks or street festivals – the kind where they give you a sample because they know you’ll find it hard not to buy a whole bag. This is nice stuff, for sure, but I don’t think it delivers nearly as well in sipping as it does just for sniffing. Mainly because it feels a bit harsh. Some may say that’s necessary to keep the dark sugar notes in check, but it feels just a touch out of balance to me, especially for the first few seconds of each sip.

With ice, the sharp bite cools down considerably at first, but then jumps back in after a second. It also does well with a touch of water, still assertive, and less overtly sweet.

Thirsty South Rating: Excellent* – I’m a bit torn on this – the nose is a “wow,” but my overall impression actually falls just short of “excellent.” It’s a nice, limited edition bourbon for $55, but I’m not sure it delivers the kind of value at that price that would get me really excited.

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* Thirsty South Rating Scale:

Wow – among the very best: knock-your-socks-off, profound, complex liquid gold!
Excellent – exceptional in quality and character, worth seeking out, highly recommended
Good Stuff – solid expression of its type/varietal, enjoyable and recommended
Fair – fairly standard or exhibiting obvious though minor flaws
Avoid – move away folks, nothing to see here, a trainwreck

Full Disclosure: Tasting sample provided by Brown-Forman.