Birthday Bourbon 2020

Old Forester spills the beans on Birthday Bourbon 2020; Jim Beam to release affordable Old Tub BIB

While summer has only just begun, we’re already talking about the big Fall Bourbon Release season, thanks to Old Forester and its highly anticipated Birthday Bourbon.

Birthday Bourbon 2020

Love the bottle!

Not only does this release — which will be out Sept. 2, on founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday — signify the 20th iteration of this product, but it also comes out during Old Forester’s 150th year in the bourbon business.

According to a press release that came across my desk yesterday, the bourbon will be 10 years old and bottled at 98 proof.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that tasting room!

“Being part of the Birthday Bourbon selection process is one of my favorite parts of my job because of the legacy and tradition this expression represents,” said Jackie Zykan, Old Forester Master Taster, in the press release. “We’re really proud of what we’ve produced this year and think it’s a great way to celebrate George’s birthday and Old Forester’s historic anniversary.”

The special Birthday Bourbon will be priced at $129.99 — if you can find it on a shelf.

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Old Tub bottle

New Old Tub!

In other news, Jim Beam is releasing a new/old Bottled-in-Bond* product called Old Tub, which is a product that actually dates back more than 140 years and was a viable early product for the Beam family. The bourbon will be about four years old and will be bottled at 100 proof, per the Bottled-in-Bond rules.

“We’re taking bourbon lovers back in time and making a delicious bourbon true to the way my ancestors intended over 140 years ago, when Old Tub was first crafted,” said Fred Noe, Beam Master Distiller, in a news release. “I’m excited to share this one-of-a-kind liquid with our fans and provide a bit of authenticity and nostalgia as we head toward another 225 years in the bourbon industry.”

The best news of all: Old Tub will be available for an affordable $22.99.

**If you’re wondering what Bottled-in-Bond means, here’s the definition, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Bottled in Bond is a label for an American-made distilled beverage that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the U.S. government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. As a reaction to widespread adulteration in American whiskey, the act made the federal government the guarantor of a spirit’s authenticity, gave producers a tax incentive for participating, and helped ensure proper accounting and the eventual collection of the tax that was due.

To be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond or bonded, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January-June or July-December) by one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof. The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded.

Old Forester family of bottles

Old Forester beefs up its single barrel proofs (!!)

When I read the news this morning, I immediately heard the voices of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” echoing through my head and down into my liver. Did you?

If you have no clue what I’m talking about, watch this:

 

So what news am I talking about? Well, I assure you it has nothing to do with politics or the Mexican drug cartel, but rather something more close to home and indeed happy. Turns out Old Forester, a bourbon brand that turns 150 this year, is celebrating this milestone by beefing up the proof on its single-barrel releases.

The Louisville company typically releases its single-barrel bourbon at an average 90 proof, but with consumer demand at an all-time high for higher-proofed products, especially from blokes like me, Old Fo decided to now let those who pick a barrel pick a proof, so to speak.

“Since our founding 150 years ago, we’ve always listened to our customers and looked for ways to innovate to meet their tastes,” said Jackie Zykan, Old Forester master taster, in a news release. “Proof and filtration are both really important factors in the final flavor and complexity of a whisky, and we wanted to be able to share how special some of these barrels are when the product inside is tasted in raw form.”

Old Forester bottles

Love the new labels! | Courtesy of Old Forester

So say you’ve got like $10,000 in your pocket and you want to buy a barrel of Old Forester. Once you and your group of friends (which better include me) pick your barrel, then you get to decide if you want it bottled at a nice 100 proof or an even nicer barrel strength, which could hover around 125 or higher!

Thus, why happy days are here!

It seems higher proof bourbons are on a rise these days, and for good reason. They pack more punch — and flavor, in my opinion. Let the consumer add water if she likes — that decision should be up to her, not added for her.

Take the recently released Weller Full Proof, or Booker’s, or George T. Stagg, or the 1792 Full Proof as examples of higher proofed bourbons that are successful and quite tasty. Heck, even Old Fo’s sister brand, Woodford Reserve, released a stout Batch Proof last year that was 125.8 proof.

Old Forester Single Barrel bottles can sometimes be found in the distillery’s gift shop, but mostly they’ll be at the stores and restaurants that actually spent the money to buy the barrel. Just keep your eyes and ears open for single-barrel offerings, as I’m sure they’ll be rolling off the line very soon.

I’m guessing all the major (and not so major) liquor stores in town already are in the barrel-pick calendar, as are bars and restaurants that sell picks — like Silver Dollar/The Pearl, 21c, Butchertown Grocery, Bourbons Bistro, Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, Taj, etc. So just pay attention and stop in from time to time.

The suggested retail price for the 100 proof Old Forester Single Barrel bottles is $49.99, while the barrel strength bottles will go for $79.99.

Anyone lucky enough to be heading to the distillery soon for a barrel pick and needs some help, I’m no master taster, but I would like to master the tasting experience! I’ll even let you slide into my DM for that invite … or whatever the kids say.

Anyway, bravo, Old Forester! Happy days are here again …

Old Forester family of bottles

Great, now I need more shelf space. | Courtesy of Old Forester

Jackie Zykan

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon comes out today!

Jackie Zykan

Old Forester Master Taster Jackie Zykan throws a party for Birthday Bourbon No. 19. | Photo by Sara Havens

Today we celebrate two things.

No. 1: It’s Labor Day and most of us have the day off. Woot!

No. 2: It’s George Garvin Brown’s birthday, which means it’s time for Old Forester to honor its founder by releasing Birthday Bourbon! Double woot!

Now, most of us did not stand in line overnight to score a bottle at the distillery, but I have hope I’ll be able to snag one eventually … I’m just not certain of where or when. But good things come to those who wait, right? And I’ve got all year to try to find one.

So what makes BB so special other than having the same initials as the Bar Belle?

Well, this one, the 19th of the series, is both high proof and older — sitting at 105 proof, the highest proof to date for this special expression, and 11 years old. I was fortunate to sample this year’s juice next to the previous year’s and can attest it is delicious and worth any effort you might give to track down a bottle or shot from a liquor store, bar or tasting room.

“Birthday Bourbon selections have ranged from 9 to 14 years old since the expression was first launched in 2002,” said Jackie Zykan, Old Forester Master Taster, in a news release. “When selecting the barrels for this year, we found something truly exceptional in this lot, and we’re proud to call it our 2019 Birthday Bourbon.”

About 120 barrels all distilled on the same day in 2008 were selected for this BB, which was chosen by Zykan and Old Fo Master Distiller Chris Morris. And according to the release, Zykan detected notes of rich oak spice and black currant coupled with light maple, caramel cake and white floral notes.

When we did the media sampling at the distillery with Zykan, she actually served the bourbon with caramel cake so we could try them side by side. The bourbon is so velvety and smooth, I didn’t even need the cake for comparison — but of course I took a few bites anyway.

Birthday Bourbon

Old Fo’s Birthday Bourbon is always released on Sept. 2. | Photo by Sara Havens

I could have sworn I also got some rich chocolaty notes as well, and of course that hint of banana that sometimes appears in older Brown-Forman bourbons.

A little over 13,000 bottles of the 2019 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon will be released nationwide starting Sept. 2 for a suggested retail price of $99.99. And 72 people who stood in line more than 24 hours this morning were the first to purchase them — but like I said, hopefully we can get lucky if we’re patient and kind.

As a reminder, my birthday is Oct. 5, so the universe can do with that what it will.