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The year 1870 and a review of Old Forester 1870 Original Batch

Posted on by Eric Burke

1870. Old Forester claims that George Garvin Brown started selling his Old Forester brand of whiskey in that year. And since renowned bourbon historian Michael Veach backs that up in his book Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey, I have no reason to suspect they are fibbing. In the story, Old Forester was the first bourbon sold exclusively in bottles. 

But 1870 is not a year that I, living in 2015, have thought too much about. And I’m going to guess that you, dear reader, haven’t either. So let’s learn a little bit about what was going on in the country in the year the bottled bourbon trend started.

  • Construction begins on the Brooklyn Bridge in January of that year. For many of us who have never been to New York City, it is one of the symbols that immediately comes to mind whenever the city is mentioned. 
  • African Americans technically gain the right to vote with the passage and ratification of the 15th Amendment to the US Constitution. It will actually be universally enforced almost 100 years later.
  • Reconstruction is ending in the former Confederate States of America as Virginia, Texas, Mississippi and Georgia become the last states readmitted to the Union.
  • If, like me, you are a Big Ten Football fan, you’ll be interested to know that the institution that would become the Ohio State University was founded in March of this year under the name the Ohio Agriculture and Mechanical College.
  • If you are, instead, an ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) fan you may be interested to know that Syracuse University was founded this year as well.
  • The US Department of Justice was founded in June of this year. I’m not making any comments…
  • Christmas becomes a federal holiday meaning that Congress gets one more day to officially not do their jobs. 
  • The first woman to legally cast a vote in the United States (since 1807…can you imagine the home life of the guys who voted to take away a woman’s right to vote???) does so in Wyoming in September.
  • The forerunner of the National Weather Service makes it’s first prediction. There is no mention of how accurate it was.

And of course the reason we are interested in 1870 today is that I recently bought a bottle of Old Forester 1870 “Original Batch.” The company says that George Garvin Brown—I wonder if we are allowed to say his name without the middle name, I never see him listed as George Brown—bought bourbon from three different distilleries to make Old Forester. So to honor that they chose bourbon from three different warehouses with three different entry proofs and ages. Sounds pretty cool, though it makes me wonder: just how many entry proofs does Brown Forman use?

Old Forester 1870 Original Batch

Purchase Info: $38.99, 750 mL. Total Wine, Burnsville, MN.

Details: 45% ABV

Nose: Floral apples, brown sugar and freshly painted walls

Mouth: The first sip is nice and spicy with cinnamon and cayenne. It’s sweet. Fruity pears and melon lurk underneath.

Finish: Decent length with lingering oak and more sweetness. 

A smiling face showing that I like this bourbon.

Thoughts: This is a really tasty bourbon. Is it twice as good as Old Forester 86 proof at $19.99? No. But bourbon math rarely works in such a linear fashion. It is too expensive for a regular purchase. I mean, it’s even more expensive that Woodford Reserve where I bought it. But I could see splurging now and again on this spicier and oakier expression of your typical Old Forester/Woodford flavor profile.


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