Old Forester’s 100 proof standard is a super-versatile and amazingly affordable favorite of mine. Some of this year’s special distillery releases (such as the 150th Anniversary Bourbon, Batch 2, which I reviewed here) have been brilliant. But Old Fo’s Birthday Bourbons are always hit or miss for me. The 2019 Birthday was brilliant, one of my favorite ever. At the press event when we tasted it, master taster Jackie Zykan included slices of birthday caramel cake because she deemed it the whiskey’s paramount note. She was dead on. It was deep, dense and rich, just like the cake. So confident that we’d love that release, she even poured us a 150 proof-barrel strength sample that, believe it or not, was far softer than anyone would think.
Straight out of the bottle this bourbon’s inviting nose led me to jump in and taste, which was a small mistake. It was surprisingly oaky and tannic, especially for a 13-year-old. So, I poured a little more and abandoned it for about 20 minutes to let it open up, and it did. The oak returned, but cloaked in brown sugar, and the tannin nearly disappeared save for the finish—and not much of it there either. It’s a delightful whiskey all around; a fine example of what the team at this venerable distillery has learned over 85 years.
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Every Little Book release is, to my palate, unique and extraordinary. Fans will recognize they’re Beam whiskeys, but no standard Beam whiskeys. Hearing Noe talk about the effort required to make them adds to their complexity, and conversations about them reminds me just how hard mingling whiskey really is—especially when using a brown rice-accented bourbon. It’s that bourbon that Noe said, “that anchors the complexity of the blend but not the majority of the blend.” I agree. The sweet, round and
Don’t let Old Forester 150th Anniversary bourbon’s potent proof fool you, this bourbon can be rolled around the mouth and savored. The finish on it is beautiful, silken and long; it’s a real pleasure to drink. This is Old Forester at its purest, boldest, most enticing and exciting. It’s why I love (most iterations) of this brand.
The first time I and a friend cracked a bottle of Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, he said, correctly, “This is what Maker’s Mark should have been all along. Why did they wait so long to release at this proof?” I agreed. Neither of us knew then how committed to barrel strength releases Maker’s since the Private Select program (recently renamed Private Selection program) was still in the design stage. Maker’s spent 50 years becoming famous as a one-hit whiskey wonder, but in the 10 years since it released Maker’s 46, it’s shown a high level of skill in creating variations on that long-established theme.
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The Old Fitzgerald 14 Year Old Bottled In Bond Bourbon is a solid whiskey that Old Fitz fans and grain-forward whiskey fans will enjoy. Were this a wine review, I’d compliment its “structure” and uniformity for playing no tricks and not changing with long exposure. The other side of that coin is it didn’t change at all with long exposure. A few drops of water did open it to reveal some nutty flavors and amplify the oak positively. Water also clears out that grassy exit that isn’t always pleasing (usually I love that). I’m not big on adding water, but it works well here.
This is a decent rye that checks all the boxes required of an American rye whiskey, but it needs more time in the barrel to gain complexity and character to make it worth its $69 price. Only a few drops of water blunted the whole presentation, which also shows its youth (Perhaps 2-3 years.) Overall, it lacks complexity and needs time in the barrel.