A crisp, robust, very dynamic bourbon. Amber-orange marmalade color. Spicy, with notes of cinnamon, spearmint, and Earl Grey tea. The spice is balanced nicely by thick toffee, rhum agricole, caramel apple, and bright citrus, with a polished leather finish. There have been some great Birthday Bourbons, but I think this is the best one to date. A whiskey deserving classic status.
Sweet notes of grape jelly, cherry pie, orange peel, and brown sugar balance on the nose against mature whiskey aromas of earth, leather, and antique closet. A powerful palate is driven by rich dark-chocolate fudge, blackberry tart, almond, tangerine slices, raisin bread, and spiced oak. A lengthy finish offers leather and spice, cinnamon, chocolate-covered blueberries, strawberries, cocoa, and oak. Water makes the flavors of this powerhouse even more impressive.
The most muscular whiskeys can sometimes feel like bullies, attempting to subdue your palate, but this one shows its strength without aggression. Deeply sweet and nutty on the nose, with pralines, butterscotch, and maple syrup, along with candied orange peel and cherry juice. The palate has a strong backbone of spice—ginger, chiles, and black pepper—while generous oak fills out the frame, and over all of it, dark fruit flavors drip: boysenberry syrup, cherry juice, and blackberry jam. The lengthy finish sprinkles a bit of tobacco and a generous amount of cocoa powder.
Style: Bourbon Color: Antique amber Aroma: Thick, lush, very complex and nicely balanced. Notes of polished leather and oak marry nicely with the toffee and caramel. Tobacco, raisins, and dates, add complexity and diversity. Palate: Bold and voluptuous, with notes similar to its aroma. Long, soothing finish.
General Comments: A big, broad-shouldered bourbon jam-packed with flavors that just won't quit. Most bourbons of this age and intensity are too woody. Not this one. It is very well-balanced from beginning to end. Bravo! Price: upper $30s. Available nationwide but produced in limited quantities.
Grape Kool-Aid, cherry cola, blueberries, tea leaf, walnuts, ginger, and polished oak lead the nose and carry into the chewy, full palate. This whiskey shows its maturity with well-integrated spice, semi-sweet chocolate, Concord grape jelly, and roasted nuts, all in sync with undulating oak. Warmth builds into the finish as cooked dark fruits and dark chocolate melt slowly away to reveal black pepper and ginger on a bed of polished oak.
Old Forester Birthday Kentucky Straight (2019 Release), 52.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $100
Elegant and supple, as befits a whiskey aged 11 years. The maturity shows on the nose, which has Concord grape skins, leather, sassafras, iced tea, chocolate, pecans, and varnish. Big dark fruit flavors, cola spices, ginger, cooked cherries, dark chocolate, and generous oak; a touch of water brings out pecans. The lengthy finish draws out cola, dark chocolate, leather, and pepper. Sip slowly; it continues to evolve in the glass. (13,200 bottles) Collectibles
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon Kentucky Straight (2020 Release), 49%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
The 20th release of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, from 95 barrels filled in 2010 and aged 10 years. Light earthiness, dried herbs, and leather on the nose, with notes of black cherry and mint. The palate is surprisingly delicate, but rich with flavors of apple, blackberry, dark chocolate cake, mocha, butterscotch, and aged oak. More earthiness mixes with spice on the finish, followed by buttered pecans, chocolate syrup, caramel, and balanced oak.
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Whiskey Row Series, 57.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
The perfect proof. Rich in color, aroma, and flavor. It begins with powerful caramel, baking spice, chocolate, cherries, cinnamon, and toffee. Then nuance and complexity. Honey, jalapeño, rosemary, crème brûlée, malt, and fruit, from the spicy citrus of grapefruit to prunes and dried apricots. Hard to believe this is over 100 proof, as you never sense the strength challenging you to find what’s next amidst the subtlety. Extremely long finish with cherry, cinnamon, and caramel. Value Pick.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 1997 Vintage, 12 year old, 47.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50.00
Big and spicy, but contrasted by layers of sweetness. Vibrant dried spice (warming cinnamon, crisp mint, nutmeg, and cigar box), caramel, nougat, black raspberry, dried citrus, and a hint of chocolate fudge laced with coconut. Very warming on the finish, with a nice resinous grip without being over-oaked. A very dynamic whiskey.
Old Forester The President’s Choice (Barrel No. 1), 55.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
Lovely concentration of flavors, including whiffs of vanilla cream soda, clover honey, bananas Foster, and a dash of pepper define this selection of barrels by Old Forester president Campbell Brown. Zippy and bright, with lemony verve, peach puree, and warming ginger. The finish smacks of pecan, bitter citrus oil, and peppery spice, with the exquisite oak content in a supporting role. (Available at Old Forester Distillery)
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (2013 Edition) 12 year old, 49%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $55
A delicious base of creamy vanilla and rich caramel, complemented by tropical fruit (coconut, pineapple, ripe mango), golden raisin, and raspberry preserve, and jazzed up with spice (cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg). Polished oak on the finish. The flavors are nicely integrated. My favorite of the last several annual releases.
Complexity right off. Cherry candied nuance, smoke, caramel, French toast, vanilla, and apricot, but then an explosion of marzipan coats the palate with vanilla, freshly baked rye bread, and hints of brown sugar, nutmeg, toasted almond, and bittersweet chocolate. Finally, cherry cola and herbs walk you to a lovely, long, bitter finish with warm undertones. This is a year-round front porch sipper.
A beautiful opening of oak, butterscotch, and fruit quickly becomes more pronounced in banana and pineapple. Then baked apple, Bananas Foster, caramel pudding, and salt water taffy. Hints of smoke and paprika lurk, but marzipan and orange blossom honey nail the landing. The finish doesn’t hold up to the palate, only offering a hint of caramel. Very good, but not quite outstanding.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 13 year old, 1993 Vintage, 48%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $35.00
The same vintage as last year’s Birthday Bourbon but aged one year longer. Last year’s version was quite intense with a lot of wood influence. What does one more year in wood do to the whisky? Surprisingly, the oak spice seems less dominant, and the flavors are more balanced. Still, this is still a serious bourbon drinker’s bourbon. Piquant, dried spice notes of vanilla, cocoa, mint, and cinnamon are tamed by layers of maple syrup, caramel, and toffee. Every once in a while some fruits try to get recognized. A powerful, after dinner bourbon.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 12 year old (2015 release), 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $75
Many of the Birthday Bourbon releases are wood driven, and this one is particularly so. Very spicy, with warming cinnamon and cool mint. Roasted nuts, tropical fruit (coconut, pineapple), tangerine, and apricot emerge occasionally, along with a foundation of vanilla and caramel. Firm, resinous grip on the finish.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 12 year old 1999, 49%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50.00
Rather bold (especially with the spice notes), with dark fruit (black raspberry jam, plum), citrus glaze, vibrant spice (vanilla, cinnamon, clove), a dusting of cocoa powder, polished leather, and pencil shavings, all on a bed of caramel. Long, spicy finish. A nice way to finish a rich, hearty meal, perhaps?
A nose of cherry candies, rose water, spiced molasses cookie, candied nuts, clove, and nutmeg make a lovely first impression. On the palate it feels a bit soft, with butter pecan ice cream, banana, and toffee, as it strikes a balance of sweetness and spice. The finish veers toward earthiness, with tobacco barn and warming chili spice.
Broad, earthy undercurrents of cigar wrapper, dark fertile soil, and spice support the honeyed sweetness and vanilla of this big-screen bourbon. Overall, the sweetness is well-tempered by cedar humidor, tea leaf, root beer spice, and berry fruit combining seamlessly on the palate. Well-balanced and easy sipping. Best neat.
Old Forester’s first-ever rye and first new mashbill in 150 years, balanced at 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn. Cinnamon, raspberries, blackberry, vanilla, and spiced oak greet the nose. The palate starts out sweet and fruity, then reveals an almond nuttiness, cinnamon, orange, and chili pepper. Water coaxes out ginger, pecan, and more heat. A smooth finish that’s still spicy, ending with a flourish of candied orange and rich chocolate.
The third straight year of Birthday Bourbon releases. Last year we were blessed with not one, but two practically flawless whiskeys (one quite richly flavored, the other light and delicate). This 1995 vintage is nearly as good and reminds me in some ways of the first Birthday Bourbon release two years ago. Sweet notes of caramel, maple, cocoa powder, and vanilla fudge (particularly on the front of the palate) are mingled with candied fruit and dry mint. The whiskey finishes fairly dry (more than its bouquet would suggest) with notes of polished leather, mint, dark chocolate, and dried tea.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (bottled 2012), 48.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50.00
Honeyed citrus, vanilla, and hints of toasted coconut on the nose. Similar follow-through on the palate—sweeter up front and then becoming dry with firm spice and toasted nuts. Long, resinous, warm spice finish. I’d like a little less dried spice on the finish—or more sweetness to balance it. Otherwise, a nice bourbon.
The first release in the “Whiskey Row” series. Nicely balanced flavors with a youthful kick. Fairly straightforward in profile, with plenty of spice (cinnamon, clove, mint, and nutmeg), citrus fruit (orange, tangerine, grapefruit), and honey vanilla. Dry, spicy finish. A little rough around the edges, but otherwise an enjoyable whiskey.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (2014 release) 12 year old, 48.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
This whiskey’s signature over the last several years has been wood dominant, with plenty of dried spice (the exception being the 2013 release which I really enjoyed—it was chock full of balancing sweetness). The 2014 release is similar to the pre-2013 releases, with dried spice (cinnamon, vanilla) and dried citrus on a soft bed of maple syrup, caramel, and honey, leading to resinous oak grip on the finish. A dynamic bourbon, but still leaning heavily on the oak spice.
A very hearty Birthday Bourbon. Richly textured with lush sweet notes of jammy berried fruit, coconut cream pie, and apple crisp, married with firm dry notes of fresh mint, warming cinnamon, and vanilla. Dry, polished leather finish. The oak-influenced dryness on the finish lingers longer than I would like, and the flavors aren’t integrated as well as last year’s version (which is understandable, given that last year’s release was Malt Advocate magazine’s American Whiskey of the Year). This is certainly an entertaining whisky. Save it for after dinner, though.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 12 year old, 1993 Vintage, 48%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40.00
One of the biggest Birthday Bourbons to date. This whiskey was aged on the top corner of a warehouse where the temperature extremes are at their greatest. The greater the temperature extreme, the greater the impact of the barrel. The wood is immediately noticeable on the nose and palate-there are plenty of concentrated dried spice notes throughout. Dried vanilla, mint, fiery cinnamon, cedar, and assorted fruits are sweetened and calmed by notes of maple syrup and toffee. Until about mid-palate, that is. Then, another wave of dried spices kicks in, remaining through the finish. For serious bourbon drinkers.
Brown-Forman has made Old Forester since 1870. It sure is easy on the eyes: beautiful tawny hues against the light of sunset. Think Southern bakery. Lots of caramel, vanilla, freshly baked cornbread, nutmeg, cherry pie, and cocoa. Then add the spiciness. These delicious flavors don’t last long, making me wonder how it would fare with just a couple more years in the barrel.
With a mashbill of 72/18/10% (corn/rye/malted barley), Old Forester offers a traditional recipe in a contemporary proof. Ponder the basics: caramel and vanilla with hints of herbs and baking spices. Promise shows in pumpkin spice, custard, and burnt caramel, but there’s an unwanted high-alcohol note that dulls much of the sweeter taste. Its final moments are saved with hints of cinnamon. Good value bourbon.
A more significant oak impact when compared to the standard Old Forester bourbons, which is evident by the polished leather, tobacco, and dry resin notes (especially on the finish). There’s an attempt to balance all this wood with notes of dusty corn, coconut, mint, vanilla, juniper, and dark berried fruit (blueberry, black raspberry, black cherry), but I don’t think it quite gets there. This bourbon is a nice change of pace (and I understand the reason behind this whisky -- to emulate bourbons from the era of Repeal), but I prefer the Old Forester “Signature” 100 proof to this whiskey. I’m happy drinking the whiskeys of today, thank you. (Price is per 375 ml.)
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, (2009 release), 1997 vintage, 48.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $40.00
Thick on the nose and palate. Nutty toffee, chewy caramel, milk chocolate, and molasses are quickly superseded on the palate by fiery cinnamon, dried citrus, blackberry, cocoa powder, barrel char, and teasing brisk evergreen. Long, warm, spicy, very dry, assertive finish. I like the nose much better than the palate, as I feel the dry finish overstays its welcome. A big, bold, bully of a Birthday Bourbon.
Screaming oak nose for a relatively young whiskey; about all that’s there is whiskey-soaked staves and some hot spice. Drillingly-hot entry; I’ve tasted bourbons at 60% that were less hot. Roaring oak fire with some underlying corn sweetness; this isn’t subtle or quiet on the tongue. Water brings out more—sweet corn, mint, rye oil—but the oak still dominates. Almost astringent in the finish. If you like big oak, here it is, but forget balance.