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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bourbon Review: Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2008 Edition



Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2008 Edition - 94 Proof; aged 13 years (bottled in 1995); distilled at Brown-Forman Distillery Louisville, KY; Price ~$35

Preface- Old Forester was the first bourbon to be sold in individual bottles.  It was marketed mostly towards physicians, as the varying levels of quality control in standard barreled bourbon had become a problem for them.  Prior to Old Forester, bourbon was sold by the distilleries in barrels to resellers, who then went from city to city selling the bourbon in barrels to bars, who then let people buy individual glasses or bring their own reused bottles.  At several points along this chain there was every opportunity to water down the bourbon or otherwise adulterate it by the resellers or the bars that bought the whole barrels.  So the move to selling bourbon in individual bottles from the distillery was bourbon's first real move to quality control.  Being consistently good bourbon, it also attracted the wealthier f those who enjoyed good bourbon, like Mark Twain, who was fond of Old Forester.

These days Old Forester is owned by Forman-Brown, which is perhaps better known as the company that owns Jack Daniels (and Woodford Reserve).  Old Forester is still a very good bourbon name, though it obviously doesn't have 1/100th of the strength of the Jack Daniels brand.  Birthday Bourbon is a special release that has been put out once per year to celebrate the birthday of George Brown.  It is very interesting, because every release has been radically different.  It is my goal to find several more vintages of Birthday Bourbon.  It's an interesting concept, putting out a limited release once a year that is purposefully wildly different every year.  No other distillery is really doing anything like this.  At the very least Old Forester and Forman-Brown should be applauded for doing something different.

Packaging - The bottle is handsome, though not particularly attractive.  The top is completely made out of cork, from the grip on the top, to the actual part that does the corking.  This is a little abnormal, but I think it's a cool touch, again setting it apart from the more standard wood top with a cork glued on.  The label color scheme varies from year to year, and this one is black with green accents.  I find it slightly unattractive, but not awful either.

Appearance - Dark Amber

Smell - Apples and caramel, with alcohol.  Literally smells like you dipped a caramel apple in bourbon.

Taste - Again, it tastes like a bourbon flavored caramel green apple.  The apple taste isn't overwhelming by any means, but it's perhaps one of the clearest secondary flavors I've ever tasted in a bourbon, my friend Maria Merritt noticed this right away the first time we tasted it (secondary flavors are flavors that aren't almost uniformly associated with bourbon, that is, not the primary flavors, which are caramel, vanilla, corn syrup, cinnamon, alcohol and (in infortunate cases) astringent/mouthwash).  Perhaps this is why the label has the green in it?  To hint at the green apple flavor?  It's also fairly smooth, as would be expected from a 13 year old bourbon.  Cinnamon also finds its way into the taste as well, giving it a spicy little kick.  The feel in the mouth is average thickness, as would be expected from a 94 proof bourbon.

Finish - the apple and caramel taste fades faster than the cinnamon, meaning the finish is much spicier than the initial taste.  It's not a long finish at all.  Perhaps even a touch short for my tastes, but isn't bad.  Only a tiny hint of astringent in the finish.  Solid, though not spectacular finish for the price range.

Overall - A very good bourbon that is very unique.  I've tasted a lot of bourbon, and I can honestly say I've never tasted a bourbon with this strong of a green apple taste to it.  If you're one of those people who believe that secondary flavors in bourbon don't exist, try this.  The apple taste is undeniable.  I'm not sure if it was an oddity to the yeast mix, the barrel or the grain mix, or most likely a combination of all the above.  It's not a bourbon I would want to drink every day, however, for the serious bourbon drinker, it's worth getting for a collection if you like a variety of bourbons.

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