Cigar Aficionado

Old Forester Releases Birthday Bourbon

Old Forester has released the latest in its eight-year series of Birthday Bourbons, which honor the September 2, 1846 birth of George Garvin Brown, the founder of Brown-Forman, owner of Old Forester. The latest edition is another fine testament to the standard Old Forester, emphasizing fruity sweetness in the famously spicy whiskey.

Each annual Birthday release follows a unique small-batch and vintage-dating process in that the barrels utilized in each batch were all filled on the exact same date. In the case of this year's Bourbon they were filled nearly 13 years ago. Standard Old Forester is made from a mixture of barrels from different years and is markedly younger.

"This year's vintage release of Old Forester is crafted from a 72-barrel batch that was put into barrels on October 24, 1997," says Chris Morris, Brown-Forman Master Distiller. "These barrels were evenly matured together in the very middle of Warehouse K, on the 5th floor in ricks 42, 43 and 45, surrounded by open space. This environment allowed the barrels to easily breathe during maturation and develop a rich fruit and spice character."

Old Forester was created in 1870 by the J.T.S. Brown and Brother Co., a partnership of George Garvin Brown and his half brother. It was the nation's first bottled Bourbon. J.T.S. Brown later left and created his own label under his own name. J.T.S. Brown Bourbon is now a product of Heaven Hill Distillery. Old Forester was originally labeled Old Forrester (probably for an acquaintance of Brown's), but despite the spelling change has been continually produced since its inception, even during Prohibition (when it was sold for medicinal purposes).

Stocks of the distillery were pressed into action during the 1990s when Brown-Forman, which also owns Jack Daniel's, reopened the Labrot & Graham distillery to produce its superpremium Woodford Reserve. While it waited for spirit made at that facility to mature, the company tapped what are called the "honey barrels" from Old Forester to bottle the first expressions of Woodford Reserve.

The 2010 Birthday Bourbon is bottled at 95 proof (47.5 percent alcohol) and retails for $49.99. The standard brand is 86 proof (43 percent) and sells for about $20. Visit


Old Forester 2010 Birthday Bourbon, 47.5%

Appearance: deep amber with a hint of green. Slow delicate legs.

Nose: Sweet sugary notes with spicy anise and a slight lacquer.

Palate: Comes out very sweet in the mouth with hard candy, honey, butter scotch, and a slight toast, followed by the signature Old Forester spicy licorice.

Finish: Long and very sweet finish with plenty of candy and bits of nuts and toast at the close.

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