Old Forester bourbon was first bottled in 1870. That’s a pretty small statement for somthing that had as large of an impact as this did so let me repeat it. Old Forester was first bottled in 1870. And in doing so it became the first brand to be exclusively available in that packaging. You couldn’t get it in a barrel. You had to buy it in a bottle.
Doesn’t seem that odd today. Even if you buy a barrel of something, you can still only get it delivered to your local liquor store as a bunch of bottles. (Unless you have all the proper licensure, of course.) But pre-Prohibition, this wasn’t the case. And why would it be? The bourbon is already in the perfect container for transport. Why would anyone want to spend the money to take it out of it’s already perfect container just to put it into an expensive bottle? A glass bottle? That might break? And cost money?
But that container isn’t actually perfect, is it? It’s got one major flaw. It can’t be sealed and made “tamper-proof.” It might leave the producer as Straight Bourbon Whiskey. But by the time it ends up in the consumer’s mouth it might have had any number of foul additives introduced to it. And since most medical professionals of the time agreed with today’s connoisseurs that whiskey is a healthful product, foul additives might just put a damper on things.
Enter George Garvin Brown, who seems to have noticed that there was a distinct lack of trust for the consistent availability of quality whiskey amongst the medical professionals. He decided to market a sealed whiskey exclusively to doctors. It was only available in a sealed bottle thereby assuring everyone of the unadulterated product inside. He named it after a local doctor, one Doctor Forrester. (After the good doctor passed away, that extra r was dropped.) The company he founded went on to become today’s Brown-Foreman producers of many things, but most notably for this site, Jack Daniels, Woodford Reserve and Old Forester.
In 2002, Brown-Foreman decided to honor their founder by releasing a yearly limited 12 year old bourbon called Birthday Bourbon. It is announced on, or around, the September 2 birthday of Brown. It is released sometime after that. The batch is taken from a single day’s production.
I first noticed Birthday Bourbon in the fall of 2011. The bottle that my liquor store had was from the year before. I noticed it because it was barreled in 1997, the year I was married. I was looking for something special for my wife and I to share since both our birthdays and our wedding anniversary take place all within the same week. Coincidentally in September. It made a fun treat. Released near our birthday and barreled the year we were married. Not too shabby.
Of course since then, it has become impossible to find. Luckily we’ve normally had the chance to at least taste it. This year with a new national-chain liquor store showing up in town, I was able to finally get my hands on another bottle.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 2014
Purchase info: $39.99 for 750mL at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN (yes, that is about $20 below the average price).
Details: Barreled 2002. Bottled 2014. 12 years old. 48.5% ABV
Nose: Brown sugar, caramel apple and latex paint
Mouth: Creamy mouthfeel. Spicy and sweet with cinnamon, maple and apple.
Finish: Lingering warmth with spicy latex paint and ripe fruit.
Thoughts: I like this whiskey very much. Spicy and fruity with a creamy mouthfeel and a nice finish.
It’s taken me a long time to place that “Brown-Foreman” nose that both Old Forester and Woodford Reserve have. In this one I finally figured it out. It’s a fruity latex paint. This sounds awful but isn’t (much like Scotch lovers will describe the wax or band-aid scent of certain drams and not mean it in a bad way.) I’ll admit, I actually rather like it.