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KWM 2021 Whisky Calendar Day 13: Old Forester Bourbon

Posted on December 13, 2021

by Evan

We are diving into Door Thirteen and grabbing another Kentucky Straight Bourbon today, this time it is the Old Forester 86 Proof!

This marks the second Bourbon we have pulled out of the 2021 KWM Whisky Calendar, the first was in our hands back on Day Four.

There are plenty of resurrected American Whiskey brands out there claiming to be liquid-based on some pre-prohibition recipe that their great-granddaddy used to make their whiskey. Some of these stories have a remote bit of credence to them. Some of them are no more than marketing BS. As a Bourbon lover, I honestly don't care much about the history of the distillery that makes the whiskey. I do like to know where it comes from and what the mash bill consists of but more for discussion and talking points than any real need for the information. That being said, it is a lot of fun when you get to talk about brand new distilleries making great whiskey like New Riff and also the older long-running distilleries like we have today with Old Forester.

Old Forester Distillery and its owners Brown-Forman are one of a handful of makers of Bourbon and Whiskey in the United States that have a legitimate and continuous distilling history going back more than a century. Back in 1870, Old Forester Bourbon launched and was the first to be sold exclusively in glass bottles with a sealed top. This was a savvy move made by creator and pharmaceutical salesman Goerge Garvin Brown to market the authenticity and consistency of Old Forester in a market flooded with questionable and often adulterated whiskey.

In the beginning, there was no Old Forester Distillery - instead, the Bourbon was blended from three different distilleries and bottled at 90 proof or 45% ABV. Just over 30 years after launching Old Forester Bourbon, George Garvin Brown purchased one of the three distilleries he used for blending: The B.F. Mattingly Distillery gave him direct control over the whisky supply used for the Old Forester brand.

American Prohibition kicked off in 2020 with the ratification and enforcement of the Volstead Act. Prohibition lasted until 1933, and it is the primary reason that we see a lot of fanciful stories about those whiskey recipes that that great-granddaddy used and revived brands talking about their by-gone history that has an 80-year gap where they didn't exist. Prohibition destroyed many companies in the whisky, beer, wine and spirits game and made a large majority of operating distilleries shut down, never to reopen. Old Forester managed to survive and continue operation during Prohibition by receiving one of only 6 Federal licences within the state of Kentucky to continue making whiskey for 'medicinal purposes.

As mentioned earlier, Old Forester is owned by a company named Brown-Forman. Named after George Garvin Bown and his partner George Forman. The company is publicly traded but to this day remains family-owned and controlled. Brown-Forman owns a few other whisky brands that you may have heard of, such as the BenRiach, GlenDronach and Glenglassauch distilleries in Scotland which the company purchased in 2016. The purchase of the three distilleries marked Brown-Forman's re-entry into Scotch Whisky as it did own a small share of Glenmorangie PLC before they sold it to Moet Hennessy in 2005. Beyond that, they also own Woodford Distillery and the Woodford Reserve brand. Oh, and a small operation in Tennessee that goes by the name Jack Daniels. Maybe you have heard of that one?

The Brown-Forman Old Forester Distillery resides within Louisville, Kentucky in a suburb called Shively. Its nearest neighbour distilleries include Michter's Shively distillery which is only a few blocks away and Heaven Hill's Bernheim distillery which is less than a 10-minute drive to the north. The Brown-Forman Distillery isn't open to the public, however, the Old Forester Distillery right in downtown Louisville was essentially purpose-built for visitors and tours. The building holds a fully operational distillery and also coopers barrels on-site. It opened in 2018. It is joined by other small downtown distilleries owned by Jim Beam, Michter's, and Evan Williams which is owned by Heaven Hill. Angel's Envy Distillery is also within walking distance.

Old Forester Distillery in downtown Louisville - Photo was taken from the Old Forester Facebook Page

Old Forester is one of a few Bourbons around that spells "Whisky" without the "e" on the label. The others that come to mind are Maker's Mark and George Dickel. The Old Forester 86 proof that we will be trying today was first introduced back in 1959. It has only just been introduced to Alberta in the past few years. Time to try it out!

Old Forester Classic 86 Proof Bourbon - 43%

Evan’s Tasting Note

Nose: A mix of cherry pie and peach cobbler along with strawberry compote, leather, and chocolate mousse with a touch of mint.

Palate: Juicy and then spicy with cherry cough syrup, cinnamon heart candies, dark chocolate, rum-raisin ice cream and espresso beans.

Finish: sweet and juicy with a touch of dark chocolate and oak.

Comment: Straight-forward but very well made. In my opinion, it is a great inexpensive Bourbon that drinks that are cheap enough to use for cocktails but also works incredibly well on its own. 

If you liked this even a little bit, You need to try out its bigger and bolder sibling the Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style. At 57.5% it gives you all of this and more. I might just pour a dram of that one to taste after this. See you all tomorrow for Day Fourteen!

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This entry was posted in Whisky, Tastings, Bourbon, Whisky Calendars, KWM Whisky Calendar 2021



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