Old Forester has grown to become one of my favorite brands when it comes to bourbon reviews. From their sought after “Birthday Bourbon” to their 100 proof Rye, I’ve found numerous offerings from them to be quite enjoyable.
While looking around today, I came across a great history lesson on Old Forester from Charles K Cowdery and wanted to share it with you. Take a look at the article below and let me know if you learned anything new!
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We probably should be grateful that Old Forester is still around. If sales results were the sole criteria, it wouldn’t be, but something else is at work. Look at the label, the answer is there in the signature below the handwritten text: George Garvin Brown.
He founded the Brown-Forman Corporation and the family dynasty that still runs it. It is comforting to know that even a giant company like Brown-Forman can be sentimental. Old Forester is still around because it is the product on which Brown-Forman was built.
About Old Forester
Old Forester was born in 1870. George Brown was a whiskey merchant in partnership with his older half-brother.
In those days, distilleries and distributors sold whiskey in barrels to bars and groceries, who sold it to consumers either by the drink or by filling a container the consumer brought from home.
Many less than scrupulous merchants watered the whiskey or “extended” it with unaged spirits and other, sometimes toxic, substances.
Among those who complained about this practice were physicians, who often prescribed whiskey as a tonic and anesthetic. George Brown, who previously worked for a wholesale drug company, knew about this complaint and got the idea of selling whiskey only in sealed bottles, so a buyer could trust the contents.
He was aided by the increasing availability of mass-produced and, hence, lower cost bottles, although it would be another 30 years before Michael Owens invented the first fully automated bottle-making system.
Originally, the name was spelled “Forrester” and Brown bought whiskey from distillers like John Atherton and Ben Mattingly. Brown prided himself on his skill at selecting and blending several whiskeys to create his brand.
This was not the “blended whiskey” we know today, which may contain very little straight whiskey. Old Forester was a blend of several straights, of various ages and from various distillers, but nothing else was added. In those days before modern production control methods, many believed this was the only way to produce a product of consistently high quality.
In 1902, Brown bought Ben Mattingly’s distillery in St. Mary’s, Kentucky, and became a distiller. George Brown died in 1917 and control passed to his sons. Their descendants still run the company today.
Until Prohibition, Old Forester was Brown-Forman’s primary product. After Repeal, other brands the company acquired took the lead. Two of those, Early Times and Jack Daniel’s, became the company’s top selling whiskeys.
Today’s Old Forester is a straight bourbon, made at the company’s distillery in Shively, Kentucky, a Louisville suburb. It is 86-proof and still has George Brown’s handwritten statement and signature on the label. The mashbill is pretty standard at 72 percent corn, 18 percent rye and 10 percent barley malt.
Old Forester’s Taste & Color
Old Forester’s color is light amber, slightly dusky. The nose is a little hot, but not acrid. Body is medium and the taste has a toffee quality, with a hint of soot in its dry finish. The finish is evanescent as the whiskey seems to magically evaporate off the tongue.
Bourbons are generally considered the most brash of whiskeys, but Old Forester’s charms are subtle. It rewards a careful and thoughtful taster. Since the introduction of Woodford Reserve, Old Forester hasn’t gotten much attention.
Too bad, eespecially since, until the whiskey distilled at Labrot & Graham comes on line, it is essentially the same product for a much lower price.
Old Forester Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 4 years old, 86 proof.
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