Well it’s been awhile since I’ve posted a review on here, almost three months now. Mainly because my life outside of whiskey has been very busy and hectic. We’ve added a new addition to the family (No, not a child but a puppy which has been no less time consuming or stressful). Although another reason I’ve been off for so long is I’ve become somewhat bored with the bourbon scene. I’ve seen the craziness that is the fall bourbon season and it’s turned me off a bit. All the ridiculousness surrounding the Van Winkle, BTAC and Four Roses releases has given me time to go out and continue to explore other world whiskies, mainly single malts. I just don’t have the patience to go out and hunt down these bottles many of which will just be flipped in the secondary market for ludicrous amounts. No I’ve been sitting back watching the nonsense and exploring other whiskies that are readily available. Although I have had the good fortune to come by a few nice bottles of bourbon at fair prices from my local liquor stores and I can guarantee you those will be opened and reviewed on here. After all what’s the point of whiskey/whisky if your aren’t going to drink and enjoy them.
So for this review I’ll be taking a look at this year’s Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. This whiskey has caused quite a stir among the whiskey blogging community. Two prominent bloggers, Jason Pyle of Sour Mash Manifesto and Steve Ury of Sku’s Recent Eats each gave polarizing reviews. The reaction to the reviews bordered on comical with some arguing that Sku’s bottle was tainted or that the ‘tasting’ room had been compromised by outside influences. That’s how ridiculous the whiskey scene has become.
Anyway I’m here to give my input on this particular bottle of bourbon. I thought last year’s release was exceptional so we’ll see if Brown-Forman can keep it going this year.
Appearance: A touch darker than last years. A deep amber with slow moving legs.
Nose: Right away I’m getting a lot of wood notes; sawdust, wood varnish and toasted oak. Not as much citrus fruit as last years but a bit more caramel and some real nice vanilla and chocolate(milk?) notes as well. I’m getting a lot of banana coming off this backed up by that signature maraschino cherry. There are some nice touches of pepper and cardamon. There’s some nuttiness too but it’s not as present as with the 2012 bottling. It is a very nice bouquet my only problem is that banana tends to overpower a bit and you have to make an effort to maneuver around it to pick some of the subtleties.
Palate: Real chocolaty upfront which was surprisingly nice. Then the butterscotch and vanilla come in followed by a nice coffee note to help balance the sweetness. The citrus fruits that are absent in the nose are in play now with grapefruit and clementines coming along with some pith bitterness as well. Unfortunately the spices that filled last year’s release are no where to be found. No cinnamon or rye which would help raise the complexity of this. Heading towards the finish the bitterness takes over with barrel char and wood tannins drying out the palate. The finish is a tad harsh which is unfortunate but there are some nice hints of vanilla, banana, dark cocoa and oak.
Overall: Another solid effort by Brown-Forman but it just not as good as the bourbon they put out last year. With last year’s release you could have argued that there was a lot of wood at play but there was also this support of complexity ranging from sweet to spicy to bitter to nutty. This year’s is much more straight forward, wood added character but no real depth. The bitterness on the palate as it enters the finish real puts a damper on what is a well made bourbon. So good but not great.
Rating: 85/ * * * S