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

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.


Cheers!