Every year, there’s one thing fans of Old Forester scan the shelves for: Birthday Bourbon.
Released on Sept. 2 to mark the birthday of founder George Garvin Brown, the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon has become known as the best of Brown-Forman’s foundation brand. It’s always made from one day’s distillation of Old Forester.
And you’d think that would mean it would be the same each time, but that’s the beauty of bourbon: Factoring in differences in aging makes a huge difference.
This year version was distilled on June 9, 2006, and there were originally 120 barrels selected by master distiller Chris Morris and master taster Jackie Zykan for the Birthday Bourbon. But 93 barrels matured on the third floor on the northwest side of Warehouse J on the Brown-Forman campus Louisville and 27 barrels matured together on the 3rd floor, northwest side of Warehouse I. Together, they became this year’s unique small-batch release.
And small it is: Total yield from the barrels was just 39 percent this year. Five barrels were completely empty. So only 2,400 six-bottle cases will be available for purchase nationwide for a suggested price of about $100.
But strong: This, the 18th version, is 101 proof, the highest yet for a Birthday Bourbon.
The result, according to the tasting notes, has a rich, dark cherry cobbler note that builds to caramel and dark chocolate, with lemon honey notes and long dry finish.
According to Brown-Forman, since the first release in 2002, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon “has been a darling among critics and collectors alike,” winning awards at spirits competitions.
But this version will have an extra component for bourbon horders: Although it was produced elsewhere, the 2018 version was the first bottled at the new Old Forester Distilling Co., in the Whiskey Row home of Old Forester before Prohibition.