Classification: Straight Bourbon
Distillery: Brown-Forman Shively Distillery
Released: September 2011
Age: 12 Years
Mashbill: Undisclosed (Rumored to be 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley)
MSRP: $50 (2011)
September 2nd marks the birthday of George Garvin Brown, one of the founders of Brown-Forman. To honor him, Brown-Forman released an Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. This bourbon is a special annual release that started in September 2002 and varies year to year based on age, warehouse location, number of barrels used, and so on. The bourbon comes in a special old fashioned glass bottle and is an anticipated release every year in the bourbon community. The 2011 bottling of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon marks the 9th year that Brown-Forman has offered this bourbon.
According to the information on the bottle, the 2011 release is crafted from a 62 barrel batch of 99Fll. The bourbon was matured in barrels crafted from the Northern and Ozark terroir sourced white oak. These barrels were stored in warehouses H and I, on their 1st and 6th floors respectively. These locations exposed the barrels to extremes of heat and cold.
The Old Forester Birthday Bourbon series usually delivers when it comes to their nose and the 2011 edition is no exception. On first whiff, I was hit with fresh oak and light vanilla. Taking a longer inhale brought about scents of fresh picked berries, milk chocolate, and new leather. It smelled so good that I had to consciously force myself to stop enjoying the nose to take a sip!
The sugars from the wood are very present in the palate. The first taste that touched my tongue was fresh sugar cane. The flavors of apricots, raisins, mixed dried fruit, honey and new wood mingled together. On the whole, the palate was light and airy, tasting a lot younger than the 12 years this bourbon sat in wood.
The finish on this bourbon was really neat. While most bourbons present a long warm finish that slowly makes its way from your mouth down to your throat, this finish tended to stay upfront and present in my mouth. It instantly warmed my mouth and stayed there for a good 2-3 minutes. It presented notes of toasted oak, honey, and a touch of cinnamon.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this bourbon is just a marketing stunt because of its unique shaped bottle. Each yearly release of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is completely unique. Since the Birthday series usually uses the normal Old Forester Mashbill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted, you get to see how aging has varied over time based on years spent in the barrel, location of the barrels, aging conditions, etc.
The 2011 edition of this bourbon was really special. It was only a 66 barrel dump, which reverses the trend of going for the larger barrel dumps that the ’09 and ’10 versions saw, and is just 4 barrels more than the 62 barrel 2008 batch. Old Forester picked some great barrels for this batch, as this bourbon tastes much younger than the 12 year age statement would lead you to believe. Because of this, it really carries through rich fruity flavors.
I’ve always found the Old Forester Birthday series to be a great value and the 2011 version was no exception. At $50, this was a great value back in ’11 when it was purchased. While it’s near impossible to find today and the price will be much higher on the secondary market, it’s being judged on the price that was paid at retail.
For the money, it's a really great bourbon that could have easily been sold for $25-30 more and still be considered a fair value. I’m glad that I have a spare on hand, and this bottle has convinced me to stock up on the new release of the Birthday Bourbon every fall!
Like a good birthday party, this great bourbon is best enjoyed with fun loving friends.
I’ve said it before, but my only real complaint of this series is the bottle design. I realize that they’re trying to play up the fact that it's a celebration bottle and brought it to retail in an "old fashioned" style bottle. However, it takes up a lot of shelf space and is a pain to pour from, often spilling down the sides of the bottle.
The bottle design aside, this bourbon was really great! The longer I let the ’11 edition sit in the glass, the sweeter the palate became and the nose stayed consistently great throughout. I really do wish that more than just the 66 barrels had been bottled as this is a bourbon that more people should have been able to enjoy. If you see it in your favorite bar, make sure to go out of your way to order a glass.
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