Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2016 Review

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By Richard Thomas

Rating: B+

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon
(Credit: Brown-Forman)

This is our first time writing up an Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, marking their September 2nd anniversary, but this is as good a time as any to start. This year, 2016, marks the 15th anniversary of the limited edition expression.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbons are drawn from stock distilled on the same day. For 2016’s batch, that single day’s stock consisted of 93 barrels were matured together on the west side of the 5th floor of Warehouse K at Brown-Forman’s property in Louisville, Kentucky. The day in question was June 4, 2004, making this year’s release a 12 year old. The yield this year was reportedly 14,400 bottles, a thousand more than last year’s. It’s a joint creation of Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris and Old Forester Master Bourbon Specialist Jackie Zykan, marking Zykan’s first participation in a Birthday Bourbon, and was bottled at 97 proof (48.5% ABV).

The Bourbon
The appearance of this bourbon in the glass is a very coppery, clear amber, one that has a delightful way of catching the autumn light, thereby matching its “birthday” season very well indeed. The nose is like a thick cherry cobbler with a ginger cookie crumble on the top, with a trickle of oakiness running straight on through it.

On the palate, the whiskey has a hefty mouthfeel, and runs somewhat on the dry and woody side, and carries a hefty load of spicy cloves. It’s only after these aspects have fully settled in on your tongue that the cherries come back. The found the bourbon a little hotter than I expected, especially for a whiskey under 100 proof. That little bit of burn isn’t so much bothersome as adding a bit of character, a point I’m sure even a novice enthusiast will agree with me on.

The finish is a tad bittersweet, and smacks of damp earth. As the whiskey was already running a little hot, it leaves behind a warm, strongly tingling afterglow.

What makes the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2016 so interesting is how much it’s flavor profile runs away from what one traditionally expects from a bourbon. Sure, the vanilla is there, but is so faint as to scarcely justify a mention. Instead it’s a fruity, woody, spicy thing, so try to check it out before buying it. Some people might come away genuinely surprised (and disappointed) by it’s divergence, but in my book that just makes it worthy of a more generous pour.

The Price
This is one of the shrinking handful of autumnal limited bourbon releases you not only should have relatively few problems in securing, but also should pay for at (or at least close) to the recommended price of $79.99.

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3 comments

  1. You gave it a B+ and said nothing about what it lost points on. For an allocated yearly limited release a B+ is equivalent to saying it’s garbage.

    • I’m a conservative grader, and I don’t think handing out a B+ grade marks something as “garbage” under any circumstances. Whether it is expensive or hard to get shouldn’t factor into the straight evaluation of what is in the bottle, although that may be a factor in whether or not you choose to pursue buying it.

  2. Had this last night for the first time and was not impressed. A cross between brandy and cherry cough syrup. Glad I didn’t buy the bottle offered to me at $220!’

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