Classification: Straight Bourbon
Distillery: Brown-Forman Shively Distillery
Released: September 2014
Age: 12 Years
Mashbill: Undisclosed (Rumored to be 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley)
MSRP: $60 (2014)
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 2014 bottling of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon marks the 13th year that Brown-Forman has offered this bourbon.
Like the 2013 edition, this version no longer lists out detailed notes on barrels selected or warehouse location stored.
The nose on the 2014 edition is really fantastic and I found it to be very well balanced. Upon first whiff, you’ll notice that this bourbon leans heavily towards the sweet side. Caramel, vanilla, milk chocolate, maple, and weirdly enough fresh straw scents are all present up front. It’s really a fantastic nose that makes you want to linger on it for a while before tasting the bourbon.
The palate is sweet, but not quite as sweet as the nose may lead you to believe. I found the bourbon to have a rich and creamy mouthfeel with predominant notes of burnt sugar, vanilla, allspice, and a hint of butterscotch. While I didn’t think the palate was quite as good as past editions (2011 and 2012 for example), I still found it very enjoyable and better than many of the recent limited edition releases I’ve tasted this year.
The finish started off dryer and hotter than I expected, especially when you take into account that it’s only a 97 proof bourbon. The heat lingers for a few moments before it fading away to flavors of old wood, vanilla frosting, and a long lasting taste of lightly toasted sugar. It’s not a bad finish per se, but it's definitely the weakest part of the flavor profile on this bourbon.
While no specific details are given on this 2014 edition, once again Brown-Forman delivers a unique bourbon. This edition of the Birthday Bourbon Series reminded me more of the 2011 and 2012 editions versus the 2013 edition. While no aging notes are provided again this year, I would be inclined to say that this was pulled from a different section of the warehouse than where the 2013 edition was aged. This bourbon contained all the sweetness upfront that has defined the Birthday Series, and it delivers an above average and hotter than normal finish.
At $60 this is the most expensive edition of the Birthday Bourbon Series to date. But, it's worth the money. Its great nose and strong flavor profile back up the asking price. And, compared to other brands, this bourbon is still one of the least expensive limited edition releases this year.
While Brown-Forman has been increasing the price by $5 for the past few years, hopefully they cap the price at the $60 mark for another year or two before the next increase. This is a great series, but it would be a shame for them to continue to increase the price without increasing the quality or, at the least, providing the aging notes once again.
A solid dose of sweet upfront with a hotter than expected finish…just the way all Birthdays should be celebrated!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but my only real complaint for this series is the bottle design. I realize that Brown-Forman is 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. I’m sure the design won’t change anytime soon and I’m sure I won’t stop complaining about the design on future editions.
That being said, the Birthday Series once again delivers a winner. For $60 you get a limited edition release that is just a treat to drink. In years past it always blew my mind that many of these birthday annual releases sat on the shelf for a long time. Clearly the secret is out now that this is a great series, as this was the first year I had to actively hunt down a bottle to add to my collection. If you see a bottle on the shelf of your local liquor store, don’t hesitate to buy it, as it will prove to be money well spent.