Tuesday, May 8, 2012

They Say It's Your Birthday: Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is an annual release that comes out every fall. I haven't reviewed one since the 2007 release, so I thought I would check out the most recent version, from 2011. The Birthday Bourbon is widely regarded as the best thing Brown Forman has to offer (which, mind you, isn't saying much).

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2011, 12 years old, distilled 1999, 49% ($40)

The nose has green grapes, cough syrup and some tinny, metallic notes. The palate is light with some minty flavors akin to mint Chloraseptic spray, with a numbing mouthfeel to boot, and some tropical fruit notes, including banana and papaya. The finish has an artificial mint taste (if you've had a Disneyland Mint Julep, you know what I'm talking about).

I have to say, I found this one to be disappointing. The flavor profile is all over the map and it ends up as sort of a light mish-mash with some unpleasant notes. As I said, I haven't had the Birthday Bourbon in a few years, but this one is distinctly inferior to the last one I reviewed. This one is no way to celebrate a birthday. I think I'd rather drink their Woodford Double Oaked.

Hmmm, speaking of birthdays, there's one coming up on Thursday. Tune in then to find out more.


Jason Beatty said...

You were spoiled silly with that 2007 as it's one I actually have in storage. I was thankful Chris Morris did not pour me this one when he went behind the bar.

Keith said...

I thought the birthday bourbon was pretty meh, but I wouldn't say Double Oaked is better. But I wouldn't buy either again.

Anonymous said...

My 'nosing' notes from the 2010: green husk of black walnut, liquorice, cork grease, "Rem Oil", melting polystyrene, insect repellent. Took one sip and didn't bother with tasting notes. Easily the sadest bourbon I've ever had. Brown Forman should stick to sloppy Tennesse whiskey.

Anonymous said...


Your critique of the 2011 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon contrasts sharply with Paul Pacult's declaration that this same whiskey is "one of the all-time best releases from this illustrious series". (He gives it five stars, his highest recommendation.) Not that Pacult is above panning spirits he dislikes. He found odors of "rotting vegetation" and "burning plastic" in Low Gap Clear Wheat Whiskey, the same product that the Whisky Advocate declared to be the best unaged whiskey in its Fall 2011 lineup. So whiskey reviews are a bit like comic books. They are entertaining to read but carry little useful information. Still, I do enjoy your blog. I am sometimes entertained and often enlightened. Plus it's free. What's not to like about that? Well, you're stuck in a Brown-Forman "suck" mode. But everyone needs a pet peeve. So live it up!

Tom Troland

sku said...

Tom, thanks for your comments and you kind words about the blog. I'm certainly glad you enjoy it.

Have you tried the Birthday Bourbon? If so, what did you think of it? It should go without saying that this is all subjective. Everyone's taste is different; no one is right or wrong. And neither I nor Pacult nor John Hansell nor Jim Murray can tell you whether you will like something. We can only tell you what we think of it. That is what I try to do, and I try to do it as honestly and clearly as possible.

I've certainly made no secret of the fact that I think Brown Forman sucks, but that doesn't mean I don't give them a chance. Every whiskey I drink, from anywhere, starts with a clean slate. I would love to taste a great Brown Forman (and I have, but they have all been either old dusties or independently bottled whiskeys), but so far, they continue to disappoint.

If Pacult or you like them, more power to you and viva la differance!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your thoughtful reply to my comment. I certainly believe that you and others who review whiskey give their honest opinions. It's just that no one should take these reviews too seriously. Especially those reviews quantified on a 100-point (or more) scale. When Jim Murray rates a whiskey 93.5, he's just making stuff up. Who knows, I might rate the very same whiskey 93.14159.

And, yes, I have tried the 2011 Birthday Bourbon. I like it much better than you do. It's no surprise, of course, that tastes vary. I don't sense the Chloraseptic aromas in the whiskey nor the Disneyland Mint Julep notes. But, then again, here in Kentucky we normally drink our mint juleps regular style rather than Disneyland style.

In any case, keep up the good work on your blog. After all, a few folks in SoCal may know a thing or two about good whiskey! And, of course, Happy Blog Birthday!

Tom Troland

Anonymous said...

Whew... Tom Troland is miffed. Who is Tom Troland?

sam k said...

Tom's not miffed...he's being objective in his own right. I agree that splitting points on a 100 point scale is absolutely ludicrous and seems to be begging for attention...and I'm nowhere NEAR miffed!

I tend to enjoy the Birthday bourbons, and like Sku, they're the only B-F whiskeys I'll give the benefit of the doubt to, but this one has me wondering...

Anonymous said...

I could swear that has nothing to do with the topic of OFBB tasting lame:)

Scott said...

I loved the 2007 BB. Bought four, still have two, shoulda bought more.

The 2008 was okay, the 2009 awful. Since then I've followed a policy of not bothering with it unless the majority of reports are favorable. That's yet to happen.

Thanks for the review.

Ryan said...

Sku, I agree with your assessment of 2011 BB. It's all Chloraseptic and mint, with dry oak. Forget about value - that's terrible at $45 - it's one that I'm not even sure I'd like to sit around and drink at all. This is not for me. And I actually root for B-F because I'm a big fan of Jack Daniels (though admittedly, not Woodford).