By Richard Thomas
Autumn is a happening season for American Whiskey, being the time of year when most of the eagerly awaited annual limited editions come out. Pappy Van Winkle headlines the season, with Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and Four Roses serving as co-features. Behind these are a slate of well-known, if not as dearly sought after whiskey releases, and among those is Old Forester Birthday Bourbon.
This year is the 16th for Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. When the expression was introduced in 2002, Woodford Reserve had only been around for six years and you could still get Pappy on a waiting list when you couldn’t buy it on demand. The theme is to pay tribute to company founder George Garvin Brown by creating a special Bourbon release based on vintage, with all the stock coming from a single day’s production.
This year’s release is a 12 year old bourbon aged in two different locations and bottled in two distinct batches of 96 and 95.4 proof. The larger batch, 93 barrels, came from the 4th floor of G warehouse, yielded what is described as a spicy expression, while a smaller, 27 barrel batch came from the 5th floor of K warehouse. The latter is said to be more rounded and sweeter.
My sample was of the 96 proof batch, and took on a middling, clear and sharp, well-coppered amber look in the glass. I found the nose to be quite flagrant and floral, and laden with cinnamon graham crackers, plus a light note of citrus zest.
I found the liquid had a light character on the palate, with a lovely flavor balancing creamy vanilla against oakiness and mulled wine spices. The finish continues in a spicy vein, adding a note of cherries, and just rolls on and on.
Assuming no mark up at the liquor store, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2017 should go for $80. If you can get it at that price, buy it.