George Garvin Brown is widely acknowledged as one of the founding fathers of American whiskey. His road to prominence began while working in the pharmaceutical industry at the end of the Civil War. Looking to create a bourbon that was pure enough to prescribe as both an anesthetic and medicinal whiskey, he and his brother in 1870 formed the J.T.S. Brown and Brother Distillery in Louisville, now known as the Brown-Forman Corporation.
The company blended whiskeys based on quality and taste and were the first in America to market their whiskey in sealed bottles to ensure purity, a brand they called Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Brown included his handwritten signature and guarantee of quality right on the label so that people would know he personally stood behind every drop.
Today, the descendants of George Garvin Brown still oversee the making of the entire range of whiskeys. In fact, Old Forester is the only remaining bourbon to be continuously distilled and marketed by the founding family before, during and after Prohibition.
The brand's flagship is the critically acclaimed Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. Handcrafted by Master Distiller Chris Morris, the annual, limited release whiskey is vintage-dated and hand-selected from one specific day of production. This very special bourbon celebrates the September 2nd birthday of the founder George Garvin Brown and is available in late August every year, just in time for his birthday.
The 2012 vintage of the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is crafted from an 82-barrel batch all of which was distilled on February 15, 2000. According to Morris that day's mash bill had an extra amount of malt added to the fermenter by accident, resulting in the creation of a singular whiskey. Once barreled, the bourbon was stored on the fourth floors in Warehouses H and I, where it experienced a balanced maturation environment. Above average evaporation reduce the volume in each barrel that resulted in the whiskey developing intense flavor concentration. The finished 12-year old whiskey is bottled at 48.5% alcohol by volume (97 proof).
Originally released in September 2002, the Old Forester Birthday Bourbons seem to get better every year, which explains why each vintage has been in such high demand. The 2012 version has a lustrous red/amber hue, a medium-weight, velvety textured body and a generous nose of caramel, vanilla, roasted almonds and orange zest. The aromatics alone make the bourbon well worth the price of admission. Considering its elevated alcohol content, the entry is remarkably gentle. The whiskey bathes the palate with waves of warm fruity, spicy flavors with a hint of toasted oak. The extended finish is nutty and delicately spiced.
The brand's venerable Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon is an 86-proof, traditionally structured whiskey made with a higher proportion of rye in its mash bill. It has a lush, semisweet bouquet with notes of vanilla and maple syrup. The bourbon's palate is laced with the flavors of spice, caramel and fruit. The finish is long and spicy.
The Old Forester Signature 100-proof is an award winning whiskey. It is a complex combination of soft, ripe fruit and citrus with vanilla recedes into a delicate oak, cooled by a hint of liquorices. The finish is sweet and light with hints of oak and apple that linger a bit.
From start to finish, Old Forester whiskeys ideally illustrate why so many people are enamored with America's whiskey.