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Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2009 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (KSBW)

Age: 12 y/o

Proof: 97 (48.5% ABV)

Distillery: Early Times, Shively, KY

Maker: Brown-Forman, Louisville, KY

Glass: Old Forester 75th anniversary of Repeal Glencairn Glass

On September 2, 1846 baby George Garvin Brown was born in Mumfordville, KY near Mammoth Cave, just over 70  miles down the Dixie Highway from  Louisville.  That bouncing baby boy grew up to found the Brown-Forman company, which is still doing brisk business in whiskey.  Brown-Forman’s flagship bourbon whiskey (for well over a century) has been Old Forester.  It holds the distiction of being the only pre-prohibition brand of bourbon that is still being made by the same company.  It is also one of the few brands to be made before, during (as a medicinal whiskey available by prescription) and after.  Besides Old Forester, Brown-Forman makes Early Times (soon to be a bourbon in the U.S. again).  In 1952 they purchased a little brand you may have heard of called Jack Daniel’s.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is a limited edition annual release.  Other distilleries do this too, most notably Buffalo Trace and Four Roses.  Like them, the folks at B-F go for a different profile every year.  Some years are certainly better than others, but they’re always interesting.

The 2009 edition is nothing if not interesting.  Some long-time members of Straightbourbon.com notoriously said this whiskey smelled and tasted of plastic baby diapers when they first opened it.  My response was “how do they know what baby diapers taste like?”  At any rate, when I opened it, I did notice an unusual odor.  I could see how it could have been interpreted as the smell of plastic.  It wasn’t really unpleasant, just odd.  That smell lessened the longer the bottle sat.

Now, the nose has moved closer to the conventional Old Forester nose.  It’s like a mincemeat pie.  Dried figs, raisans and dates seasoned with clove, nutmeg, and allspice.  It is fuller-bodied than the standard issue Old Forester.  When swirled (glencairns are especially good for this) it leaves big, sluggish “legs” in the glass.  Legs are those rivulets of whiskey, wine or whatever that are left after the liquid is given a good swirl.  Thick legs are a sign of a good body.

When it enters the mouth, though, things get weird.  The richness of the 2008 edition is there in the 2009, but it is soon overwhelmed by something.  What is it?  I’m not sure I know.  Maybe it’s smoke, or acrid wood, but a taste like you get when you hold a pill in your mouth for too long emerges.  The finish is bitter too.  Bitter chocolate, maybe, but whatever it is, it’s clearly coming from the char inside the barrel in which it was aged.

What do I make of this whiskey?  I don’t know.  Do I like it?  Yes, I think so.  Would I buy it again?  Probably not.  Will I buy the 2010 edition?  Oh yeah.

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