Showing posts with label Old Forester. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Old Forester. Show all posts

Monday, March 6, 2023

Old Forester Series 117 "Warehouse H" Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


There are many iconic American whiskey brands on the market. Old Forester has the unique capacity to call itself the oldest continuously produced brand and the first to be exclusively offered in sealed bottles. Yes, the distillery was one of only six in the country allowed to continue operations during Prohibition.


George Gavin Brown founded the brand in 1870. As a pharmaceutical salesman, Brown understood the need to keep things people would ingest sterile. He also knew there were shady characters who would add nasty things to barrels of whiskey to stretch stocks and increase profits (which led to the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897). The solution was to prepackage his whiskey in sealed bottles.


Brown teamed up with George Forman (not the infamous prizefighter), and their company was called Brown-Forman. When Forman passed away in 1901, Brown bought out Forman’s half of the organization but retained the name. In 1917, when George died, his son, Owsley, took the helm and kept the business growing. Today, 153 years later, Brown-Forman is publicly traded, and the Chairman of the Board is George Gavin Brown IV.


The 117 Series of whiskies from Old Forester is their limited edition label that debuted in the fall of 2021. The newest edition, just released, is called Warehouse H.


Warehouse H is symbolic of Old Forester’s growth after WWII. Construction on the brick warehouse began in 1946, housing 50,000 barrels. The four story, eight chamber warehouse was designed to be heat cycled in the winter months when temperatures dropped below 60 degrees and the maturation process ceased. Warehouse H is unusual in its heat cycling profile with the 1st floor sometimes hitting the highest temperatures.” – Old Forester


Warehouse H Bourbon is made from the same mash as its other Bourbons: 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. It goes into the barrel at 125°, sleeping the next several years in #3-charred oak. Warehouse H is available at the distillery or if you book a stay at Old Forester’s “The Sleepeasy,” a Prohibition-themed apartment on Whiskey Row. A 375ml, 49% ABV (98°) package retails for $59.99.


I must thank Old Forester for this opportunity to #DrinkCurious. The sample was sent in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s get to it, shall we?


Appearance: I sipped this Bourbon neat from my Glencairn glass. Inside, the liquid presented as cinnamon brown. It generated a thinner rim that released wide, wavy tears.


Nose: The aroma consisted of lemon peel, cherry, plum, cinnamon powder, and toasted oak. The cherry and plum notes stood out. A punch of caramel rolled through my mouth when I drew that air inside.


Palate: Thick and oily, the texture allowed me to concentrate on this Bourbon’s flavors. It began with caramel, vanilla, and graham crackers. I found lemon and orange zests, plum, and cherry as it moved to mid-palate. The back offered tastes of toasted oak, chocolate, and clove.


Finish: Citrus remained throughout the finish, accompanied by vanilla, caramel, rye spice, and oak. It warmed my mouth and throat and lasted several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Ignoring a couple of Old Forester Birthday Bourbons I’ve tried over the years, Warehouse H may be my favorite Old Forester I’ve sipped yet. I love 1920; I have had some incredible Single Barrels, and this one eclipses them all. It is a shame that this can’t be procured other than at the distillery because I would love to pick up a Bottle for my whiskey library. If you come across this, don’t pass it up. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Old Forester Extra Extra Old Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Old Forester created its 117 Series in the Spring of 2021. It was the brainchild of former Master Taster Jackie Zykan and was meant to highlight what could be done with existing stocks. The newest incarnation, code-named Batch 003, is officially called 1910 Extra Extra Old.


"This expression was born from a creative and innovative experiment while staying true to the classic taste which sets Old Forester apart. Although I only joined Old Forester last month, this was one of the first new limited expressions I was honored to taste – and the extra long double barreling leads to an explosion of flavors.” – Melissa Rift, Old Forester Master Taster


If the 1910 Old Fine Whisky moniker seems familiar, it is the final entry of the Whiskey Row Series from Old Forester. It is also the base of this experiment. That whiskey… um… whisky is made from a mash of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley. It was meant to commemorate the October 22, 1910 distillery fire that shut down production.


1910 Old Fine Whisky carries no age statement. It was double-matured in toasted, extremely-charred barrels for an undisclosed period meant to mimic the fire. Extra Extra Old extended that second maturation for a full two years. Like 1910 Old Fine Whisky, Extra Extra Old is bottled at 93°.


Extra Extra Old is a distillery-only Bourbon that was released on December 13th. Its availability may be extremely limited if there’s even anything left. You can check Old Forester’s online store. A 375ml bottle retailed for $59.99.


What did this accomplish? The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious. Before I get there, I must thank Old Forester for providing me with a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s get to it!


Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass revealed one of the darkest whiskeys I’ve come across yet. The deep mahogany color was inviting and piqued my interest. A fuller rim created slow, thick tears that fell back into the pool.


Nose: I suspected oak would dominate the nose, but I was wrong. Instead, dark-roasted coffee, cherry, plum, chocolate, and toasted coconut were all easy to pluck from the air. As I inhaled through my lips, the coffee became more pronounced.


Palate: The oily mouthfeel featured dark-roasted coffee, cherry, and plum on the front of my palate. Midway through, I tasted toffee, tobacco, and coconut, while the back offered the first embrace of oak with barrel char and dark chocolate.


Finish: The finish initially was medium-short in duration; however, when I sat back and concentrated, there was a ghosting effect. Flavors of roasted coffee, dark chocolate, oak, and tobacco coated my throat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I was not expecting the finish to be as short as it was. With the extra aging, I (wrongfully) assumed there would be wood tannins that would go on for days. The coffee notes on both the nose and palate offered no bitterness. The fruity notes were refreshing and melded well with the savory and spice experience. While it may have been interesting to taste this at a higher proof, the 93° provided enough flavor to make me happy. Take into account the affordability factor, and Extra Extra Old is a winner, easily snagging my Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Old Forester King Ranch Edition Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Have you heard of King Ranch? Established in 1883, it is a privately-held Texan agricultural company that includes an 825,000-acre ranch that raises cattle and horses. Crops such as cotton, sugar cane, pistachios, almond, and various vegetables are grown, and it is also home to a wildlife preserve and recreational area. It also has a marketing relationship with Ford pickup trucks.


Most American whiskey drinkers have heard of Old Forester, which bills itself the first Bourbon packaged exclusively in sealed bottles. Something that is less commonly known is that it is the longest-continuously produced Bourbon, spanning a whopping 152 years! It is owned by Brown-Forman, which also owns well-known brands such as Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve.


Old Forester and King Ranch have come together to offer Old Forester King Ranch Edition, a limited-edition Bourbon. It is so limited that you can only buy it in Texas.


“This new product represents George Garvin Brown’s lasting legacy and Old Forester’s commitment to quality bourbon. It’s a big, bold flavor – to match the big, bold ranch in South Texas.” - Cole Irvin, a whisky innovator who helped craft the King Ranch Bourbon


What makes this whiskey unique? It begins with a “proprietary” batch of Old Forester Bourbon. That could, of course, mean anything. But, more unusual is the whiskey aged in heavily-charred, new American oak barrels before going through a finishing run via King Ranch mesquite charcoal, harvested from mesquite trees grown on the ranch.


Old Forester King Ranch Edition is packaged at 105°, and a 750ml bottle has a suggested price of $69.99. It carries no age statement.


I thank Old Forester for providing me with a sample of King Ranch in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Old Forester King Ranch presented as raw honey, forming a medium-thin rim. Fast, thick tears rolled down the wall and back into the pool.


Nose: An aroma of fruity notes such as cranberry and cherry joined with sweet brown sugar and butterscotch. There was a slap of toasted oak as well. The brown sugar became heavy when I drew the vapor into my mouth.


Palate: An oily texture offered the front of my palate flavors of cocoa powder, nutmeg, and caramel. As it moved to the middle, I tasted raisin, plum, and black cherry, and then, on the back, I found tobacco leaf, old leather, and clove.


Finish:  A medium-long finish featured very dark chocolate, leather, tobacco, and pecan praline.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found Old Forester King Ranch fascinating. Based on the description, I had expected mesquite to play a major role. In the case of this Bourbon, it didn’t even make the cutting room floor. I’m sure it did impact the flavors I discovered from this pour, which were enjoyable.


Old Forester King Ranch drinks at its stated proof, if not a point or so higher. It was big and bold, and nothing in this Bourbon came across as shy. Regarding a value statement, it is a one-and-gone release and not priced obnoxiously. Overall, I believe Old Forester King Ranch is a tasty Bourbon and well worth my Bottle rating. If you don’t live in Texas, see if a friend can grab one. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.



Monday, June 28, 2021

Old Forester Straight Rye Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

When I took a tour of the Old Forester Distillery in Louisville, I found the tour itself was basic, although I have to admit they have stuff that you don't run into at other distilleries. Between the micro-cooperage and the all-black, steel, industrial rickhouse, it was fun. If you have a chance to go, do it.

But, this isn't a review of their distillery tour. Rather, it is a review of their Straight Rye Whiskey (sorry, Whisky, because Brown-Forman, the parent company, likes to spell it without the e). But I mention the distillery tour because this is the first time I was able to taste their Rye.  Made from a mash of 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn, this is the first time in 40+ years that the Old Kentucky Distillery's Normandy Rye Whiskey recipe has seen the light of day. Brown-Forman acquired Old Kentucky in 1940 and the recipe eventually went away. Or, that's the backstory. You know how I feel about some of these backstories - everyone's great-grandpappy had some long-lost recipe that was discovered in an abandoned cupboard and resurrected to make the whiskey you're drinking today. True or not, this is a big step for Brown-Forman to create a unique American Rye and steer away from their standard mash. And, before you ask, yes, this is a completely different mash than sister company Jack Daniel's Rye.

There is no age statement, but we know it is at least two years old due to the Straight designation. And, while this is 100°, like their Old Forester Signature, this is not Bottled-in-Bond. The packaging is simple with a screw-top, metal closure. Retail is just over $20.00 depending on where you shop.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Rye appeared as a definite deep amber. It created a medium-thick rim which generated a thick curtain that slowly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  A complex blend of oak, vanilla, and floral notes greeted me initially. As I continued to explore, I discovered toasted oak and cocoa. Below that was thick plum.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of rich vanilla and plum.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and coating.  The front of the palate was light, much lighter than I expected for 100°. I discerned brown sugar, allspice, and nutmeg. Mid-palate was more pronounced with toasted nuts, plum, and slight citrus. The back was even stronger with very heavy cocoa and dark chocolate.

Finish:  There was a deep finish if you are patient. Rye spice and cocoa begin the process. As it drops off, toasted oak and very long-lasting chocolate hang on. Then it falls off about a minute or so later.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one of those #RespectTheBottomShelf moments that makes me smile. First of all, this is very affordable for everyone. Secondly, there's more complexity than you'd guess from a budget whiskey. I found it fascinating that while the front of the palate started off so soft, it finished with a crescendo. It also drank more closely to barely-legal ryes such as Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond than something with a much higher rye content. I'm chalking that up to the malted barley, which is what produced all of the chocolate and cocoa notes. Not only did I enjoy this, but I enjoyed it so much that I bought a bottle at the distillery (something I rarely do). This one's a definite Bottle.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

My Not So Aimless Wander Around Kentucky

I've been to Kentucky several times. To me, it is the Promised Land. The distilleries, the great people, the Bourbon culture, the gorgeous scenery - it all gets my blood racing. This time around, the purpose was for a Bourbon & Banter barrel pick and some handshaking, and Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I decided to make it an extended trip. 

Our first stop was on the way to Kentucky, in Borden, Indiana.  If you're wondering what's in Borden, it is the home to Huber Winery and Orchard and Starlight Distillery

When I was taking part in some barrel picks recently, I was introduced to Starlight via Huber's Old Rickhouse Indiana Straight Rye. Now, I know what you're thinking... Indiana Straight Rye means that this is MGP distillate. I made that same assumption and I was absolutely wrong. Huber's has been around for 170 some-odd years. The distillery is newer, but it is all their own.

Anyway, for $15.00, you get a tour of either the winery or the distillery. Either one includes seven samples. As luck would have it, they had several whiskeys from which to sample, and the only one they were sold out of was the Old Rickhouse.  That's okay because I had a chance to sample their other whiskeys, as well as a Blueberry Port and a Bottled in Bond Apple Brandy.  Reviews of the whiskeys will follow.

I will say this much:  Starlight is a distillery you should pay attention to. I predict big things once people learn about it.

Our next stop was to Louisville Distilling Company, a/k/a Angel's Envy. This working distillery was opened in an ex-elevator and sawblade factory. For $18, they put on a very nice tour that gives you a lot of ins-and-outs and provided some good transparency. What you don't get is a glass to keep at the end of the tour. We had a fantastic guide named Peter who knew his stuff and had a great sense of humor. Honestly, a lot of these tours give you the same basic information on the distilling process. Each has some unique aspect of what makes them special. But, the tour guide makes or breaks these tours, and if you get Peter, you're going to have a very enjoyable one.

We sampled their standard Bourbon finished in Port barrels. Once the tour ends, you're invited to their bar where you can order cocktails or their Rye finished in rum casks.

The gift shop was gorgeous, but things were more on the pricey end of the spectrum.

Then, it was off to Old Forester.  This is a working distillery re-opened original location on Whiskey Row. What makes Old Forester unique is they have a working mini cooperage on-premises. I've been to cooperages before and building a barrel is a fascinating process. Being Sunday, the staff was off, but the equipment was still there. Our tour guide was McKenzie who was full of energy and animated. She made it fun. At one point, after she was done explaining where the various flavors come from, my buddy Jim Knudson and I asked her, "Where does the marzipan come from?" Kudos to McKenzie for not missing a beat and getting halfway through her explanation before she stopped and asked, "Is this some sort of set-up?" We admitted it was and had a great laugh.

We sampled the workhorse, Old Forester 86, then 1897 Bottled in Bond, and then their brand-new release of their Rye. For $14 it is a nice tour that, again, does not include a tasting glass to keep at the end. The gift shop has very fair pricing.

Monday morning was the crown jewel.  We met up with Eddie Russell at Wild Turkey to do our barrel pick of Russell's Reserve.  If you're curious, Eddie is very down-to-earth and an all-around gem. We didn't tour the facility, but we did hang out in one of the rickhouses to sample directly from the barrels. We settled on an absolutely delicious one, but until it is time for release, I'll withhold details.

Next was probably the most unusual tour I've ever been on. We were able to tour the Castle & Key distillery on a private tour. Our guide was Abigail, and she knew everything about everything. What made Castle & Key fascinating was how they're still renovating things on the campus. This distillery used to be the Old Taylor Distillery and was left abandoned and severely neglected. They've done a marvelous job restoring things to their original condition as much as possible while ensuring things are safe and up to code. When they're finished, I predict Castle & Key will be like Woodford Reserve or Maker's Mark, where the campus itself will be a destination beyond the distillery.

Castle & Key is not sourcing anything. Currently, they've got vodka and a couple of gins, but we were able to sample some of the newmake that is aging in one of the original rickhouses.  They've also got a gift shop that is well-stocked with variety and was surprisingly affordable.

From there, we went to Michter's Fort Nelson for a private tour. Our guide was Jacqueline, who had an amazing sense of humor and put up with a lot of our silly jokes, including the marzipan one (and then joined in on the fun). We wound up skipping some of the basics since she knew we were not distillery newbies, and really enjoyed the tasting, which included the Michter's 10 Bourbon and Rye as well as the 20 Bourbon. For the record, the 20 is stupidly amazing. 

Michter's also has a very interesting bar at the end of the tour. Here, you can try pretty much anything Michter's has ever produced, including the famed Celebration. You may need to take out a small loan for that, though. Their gift shop is very nice and what I browsed seemed affordable.


The next day was our two final distillery tours, starting with Lux Row DistillersOne of the burning questions I've had was Lux Row's relationship with Limestone Branch. I discovered that these are sister organizations under the Luxco parent company.  Thank you to our host, Vincent.

Lux Row is another one of those drop-dead gorgeous campuses. This was erected on a farm near Bardstown and the scenery is amazing. Too bad I didn't catch much of it on film. We were able to sample Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks 90, and David Nicholson Reserve. We were then given the choice of their Double-Barrel Bourbon and Blood Oath V for our final. I recently reviewed the Double-Barrel Bourbon and fell in love with it, but have a bottle at home and opted for the Blood Oath. 

Lux Row also has a beautiful and affordable gift shop.

The final distillery tour was at Bardstown Bourbon Company.  This distillery landed on the Kentucky scene with one plan and wound up with something completely different. They set out to do their own distillate and took on some clients for contract distilling. From there, the contract distilling business apparently went gangbusters. Every client has their own completely customized mashbill and is then distilled by BBC. I don't recall the exact number, but our guide, Sam, told us it was somewhere around 43 different mashbills they distill. 

The campus itself is very modern, from the distillery to the guest center to the rickhouses. One curiosity for me was the feasibility of the rickhouse design. The inside was fine, it was the outside. Rickhouses grow a lot of lovely mold on the outside as the angels take their share, but the way the BBC ones were designed with glass walls and wood plank siding, looks like they'd need to be regularly cleaned to maintain the appearance of the campus. Of course, I could be way off base here. 

When you come through the front door of BBC, the lobby is their restaurant which, if you're curious, has a very nice menu and the food is well-prepared. Their bar has much more than what you'd find at bars of other distilleries. It is fully stocked with a variety of brands. Their gift shop was minimalistic and could best be described as "new retro-modern" in design. They sold not only their house brand of whiskeys but also those of their clients.

On a side note, in the photo below (the overview of them loading barrels), this guy in the warehouse was very talented. He would spin and flip the barrels to get them in the right place. Spinning and rolling I could understand. Flipping? That looked like it required a lot of practice!

And with that, my time with my fellow Bourbon & Banter colleagues came to a finale.

This was, overall, a really fun experience. As I stated at the start, I've been to Kentucky several times. But, it had been five years since I'd been, and there has been a lot of growth in Bourbon Country. Aside from the wonderful fellowship with my colleagues (and seeing many of them in person for the first time), except for Wild Turkey, these were all distilleries that were new to me.

If you've never been to Kentucky, you should go. And, if it has been several years since you last visited, maybe it is time to consider a return.  As for me, I will not wait another five years.