The Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015 …..yes, another annual, “special release”, that hits the markets in the fall, but this one still flies a bit under the radar, which is good news that may not last for much longer as more bourbon fans discover this little gem. And even more to like….contrary to so many of the fall “special releases”, not only does the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon have an Age Statement, 12 years, it still remains on the right side of the reasonable affordability scale coming in at around $50. Will that hold true with this year’s release? We’ll just have to wait and hope …. with our fingers crossed!
My first Old Forester experience was the 2013 Birthday Bourbon, which I picked up on a recommendation …. and with the first sip, I promptly wished I’d bought two! I know that there are some reviewers who think the 2013 was slightly inferior to the 2012 release, but I’ve not had a chance to compare the two, so I can’t comment. But for me, the 2013 was so good that I became a fan and I made sure to pick up a bottle of the 2014 release when it hit the stores – sadly, one was all I could get due to the allocations. In 2015, I was fortunate that my son was in town when the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015 was available here in Texas, so I took him with me and was able to buy two bottles! Lucky me!
In the interim, I’ve tried a couple other Old Forester bourbons and I previously reviewed their Original 1870 release here. In that review is a little information on the distillery and some of the history surrounding the brand, so I won’t bore you with repeating myself, letting you check it out if you’re so inclined.
So, with all that out of the way, let’s get to the review and find out if the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015 release will hold up to the high expectations set by the 2013 bottling!
Review: Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015 Release, Distilled 2003, Barreled 2015, 48.5% abv
Nose: It’s a berry, berry good nose! with ripe strawberry, orange peel, red apple, and a beautiful, dominant, deep cherry liqueur note; then add in some raspberry sorbet that brings a softly effervescent, bubbly, aspect and you have a wonderful bourbon to enjoy …. and, yes, I realize smelling something bubbly is a stretch, but that’s what came to my mind! There is also a fresh-squeezed lemon juice dribbled bananas covered with over maple syrup. Even though this is a sweetish bourbon, it doesn’t come across as overly saccharine sweet, offering, instead, a sweetness perfectly balanced with a distinct graininess that adds just the right amount of sharpness. Add a hint of ginger and pepper from the oak, a touch of pipe tobacco, and a subtle hint of barrel char smokiness and you have an absolutely delightful, intriguing nose! Adding water is neither necessary, nor does it do much to the whiskey; it remains very consistent.
Taste: Just like the nose, this is a full on fruit salad with the strawberry, cherry, banana, and some red apple. There is that very evident maple syrup aspect that contributes to a wonderfully thick, oily, and very rich body that just oozes along the tongue. Candied walnuts and something earthy, and some bready grains that offer a roundness to the palate. As with the nose, the oak shows itself with these hints of pepper, along with some mint and ginger that add a nice spicy bite that complements the fundamental sweet, fruity nature. There is a touch of lemon juice that tickles the tongue, and a delicate smokiness from the barrel.
Finish: Remaining true to form, the finish shows off all the sweet, vivid, dense fruity flavors, the maple syrup note, the underlying rich grains, and the hint of smoke that continue to linger long and beautifully on the tongue well after its gone.
Overall: What can I say? I really enjoyed this bourbon. I’ll even go so far as to say that this is quite possibly among the best I’ve tried. Everything about this bourbon just hits all the right notes for me…sweet but not sugary, densely fruity, well-balanced, and with a great mouthfeel and a beautiful finish. In some ways this is kind of like a “Scotch bourbon” in that it has this well-developed combination of apple, banana and strawberry with that subtle smokiness. This is a beautiful bourbon with a richly sweet, syrupy body, and the bold, luxurious cherry liqueur note mingles so well with the ginger and minty sparkle that hits on the tongue. Damn this is good! I think I’ll pour myself another and be glad I managed to get two bottles of this beauty!
Details: Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015
Region: Kentucky, USA
Distillery: Old Forester (Brown-Forman)
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: 12 years
Maturation: First fill, American white oak
Price: $55 (Total Wine)
Availability: Limited, secondary market
Sample Source: My own bottle