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Review: 2013 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Brown-Forman has been producing the distillery’s annual Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (OFBB) release since 2002. Named after the distillery’s founder, George Garvin Brown, the release celebrates Mr. Brown’s September 2nd birthday. I personally have a love-hate relationship with the OFBB release. The 2010 I rated a whopping 9.3 – superb stuff. Other annual releases have ranged from underwhelming to very good. The question is did Brown-Forman bring out the good stuff for 2013…….

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (2013), 49% abv (98 Proof), $54.95/bottle
Color: Medium Amber/Copper
Nose: Vanilla custard, caramelized banana, chocolate, dried dark fruits, and bright orange oil. Gentle oak character, but overall rich, sweet, and fruit forward.
Palate: Vanilla, butterscotch, pecan, and dried fruit livened with bitters, ginger, nutmeg, and hints of toast.
Finish: Lingering caramel sweetness, barrel spices (clove, nutmeg), and humming warmth.
Overall: The 2013 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (OFBB) is as epic a nose as you will find in the whiskey world – absolutely jaw dropping. The palate is perfectly proofed, harmonious, and on the sweeter side. I can easily say you’d have to look at the 2010 release to find an OFBB release as strong as this years. Even at $55 I consider the 2013 release a must try for bourbon lovers. Send me your opened bottles if you don’t enjoy the hell out of it – my birthday is right around the corner.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.5 (Superb)

50 Comments

  1. John Hunt says:

    Must. Have. This.

  2. DeanE says:

    Wow.. Strong marks and comments. Thanks for the review, Jason!

  3. Wow, that’s a hell of a recommendation! Thanks for the heads up Jason can’t wait to try it.

  4. Peter says:

    This is always one of my favorite bourbons, seems like it is one I can at least get my hands on in Dallas. Hope this one makes it here, I called a few stores yesterday and they said ‘maybe’ October if they get any at all. Fingers crossed….

  5. Doug says:

    Jason, saw your review about OFBD 2013 bourbon and visited my local liquor store hoping I would find a bottle. BINGO! As soon as I opened the bottle I caught a nose of something special. While the nose is not as special as later year’s Four Roses Limited 2012 Single barrel and OMG the Limited Small Batch…this comes close. I kept nosing saying to myself “what is that and that”? On the palate just lovely. Sweet spicy with wood char and that “what is that flavor and that flavor”. And the finish….oh so smooth and delightful. So far this is my bourbon of 2013. Expertly done! I can’t wait to compare it to the 2013 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch…if I can hold on to it that long. Your review is right on…a superb bourbon. I better get out and find another bottle as you are not getting mine. :-)

  6. Steve says:

    Sorry Jason, but you are NOT getting my opened bottle of this stuff. Like you I’ve been a big fan of OFBB for several years. The 2013 edition is terrific. Glad to see it get some recognition but now worried that it will disappear too soon from store shelves. Better buy more soon!

  7. Alan says:

    Will be my next purchase. Always wanted to try it and you talked me in to it with this review Jason. BTW, glad to have you back! Looking forward to some future video reviews also.

  8. SCmayor says:

    I thought last years version was amazing….cant wait

  9. Paul Hart says:

    What happened to the quick pick list of bourbon names going down the right hand side? I need it back! :)

  10. Josh says:

    Its still there. Just click the Select Category drop down box………

  11. Don says:

    Thank for another amazing review! I keep coming back to your previous post about glassware. Any chance you could make a small note as to which piece of stemware you used when reviewing the juice?

  12. Andrew says:

    Don, perhaps you can try something along the line of these…

    http://www.amazon.com/Glencairn-Whisky-Glasses-Set-4/dp/B003QX2JMA

  13. Joe says:

    Don, he uses a Copita quite often. Most prefer the Whisky Glass made by the Glencairn company as well.

  14. Andrew says:

    Joe’s comment reminded me there was a whole article from Jason on this:

    http://sourmashmanifesto.com/2011/01/27/whiskey-glassware-for-nosing-and-tasting/

  15. Joshua says:

    Whoa, $54.95 a bottle? Either you are in a high tax state or your distributor screwed you. Only $36 here in Colorado, but I would easily pay the $54 for a bourbon this good.

  16. Wilson says:

    Joshua, you must have purchased your bottle at Davidsons….lowest price you can find

  17. Blake says:

    Can’t wait to try this. Heard its supposed to hit shelves in FL in the next two weeks

  18. Don says:

    Thanks guys! I read his article and that is why I want to know which glass he uses for any particular review. Would be interesting to know. I am wanting to get a Copita soon but have only sipped out of my Glencairns thus far.

  19. Andrew says:

    We can only hope, Blake. We usually do not see many of the limited release editions down here in this part of S FL. Believe I saw where Rittenhouse 100 was available not far away. So, perhaps things are looking up.

  20. Tyler says:

    Happy birthday, Jason! Keep up the wonderful reviews!

  21. Peter says:

    Great to see your reviews again Jason. I’ve learned so much from you over the last few years and have been fortunate to track down most of your favorites. Still have a couple of bottles of the 2010 OFB and can’t wait to track down its younger brother. Thrilled to see you like it so much, and that B-F has kept the price reasonable. It’s pretty disturbing to see the escalation in prices … I actually find myself saying “hey, this bottle’s a bargain at 55 bucks.”

    You do such a terrific job of educating and explaining … one topic I’d love to see you explore is the barrel proof phenomenon. I’ve tried to enjoy the Staggs and Wellers of the world. I appreciate the intensity of the nose, but for the life of me can’t figure out how to drink the stuff without hallucinating from the proof. It seems like every review encourages you to drink it unadulterated, but that’s a recipe for disaster for me. Is there any way to enjoy these monsters by watering down to the regular proof levels? Because I like to have a good 4-6 ounces a few nights a week and not end up in the Psycho Ward!

    Thanks again for your wonderful site!

    Peter

  22. Jordan says:

    This year’s birthday bourbon as well as the latest batch of BMH rocked my world. IMO, as long as there’s birthday bourbon on the shelf for under $50, there’s nothing else worth buying.

  23. MatthewLambac says:

    When will you review Jim Bean Rye?

  24. Ray O says:

    Dang, this one is good, actually well beyond good. The nose is superb and the taste just blossoms with flavors. It’s “95″ rating is well deserved. Thank you, Jason, for leading us to this fine bourbon and thank you, Twin Liquors, Austin, for finding a bottle for me. Cheers!

  25. Brandon says:

    Hope you can get back to reviewing on youtube in the future, even ralfy mitchell said he hoped you would again in his last whiskey review that was on wild turkey.

  26. bentley says:

    And a special thanks to Roy O for letting me know Twin Liquors in Austin had a bottle!

  27. MFMH says:

    Picked up two bottles today for $36 a piece. Cracked one open as soon as I got home. I think I might have a new favorite bourbon. And at this price, it is serious “back the truck up” bourbon. A very dark bourbon and the most chocolately tasting bourbon that I have encounter. Rich and layered with complexity. Vanilla, cocoa, coconut, caramel and fruit flavors are all present with just the right amount of heat and spice to balance everything out. Will being going back to scoop up a couple more bottles before they are gone.

  28. sam says:

    anyone know where to find this stuff in southern california?

  29. Dawn says:

    sam, I’d suggest putting your name for this – or any favored release – in with your usual purveyor. For example, we shop The Wine House in West L.A., Total Wine, and Wades Wine. Haven’t seen it ourselves locally, but it’s due to arrive before November.

  30. @Dawn – great suggestions. I tell folks this all the time. It’s not about how much money you drop at a store. It’s about giving that store your business consistently, talking to them, investing in them. It’s a scratch my back, I scratch yours type scenario.

    @The Whiskey Dick – It’s been a while since I’ve tried Signature. I will give it a taste.

  31. Don – great idea to add that. I will look at adding that, and I appreciate the suggestion. I use a Glencairn predominantly but also will interchange a Villeroy and Boch Single Malt glass as well.

  32. Josh says:

    Would have to agree, the nose is one of the best in the business. I compare it to a PVW15 bottling (only thing that came to mind). After that, for me it starts to drop off. The palate is full of rye spice, a bit thin, and dissapointing finish. I do agree, it is probably at the perfect proof, no burn at all. I would call this an easy drinker with a teaser nose. I had hoped for more of a syrupy texture on the palate. 9.5 on the nose, 8.8 on the taste and finish…

  33. Folks I recommend you head over to Sku’s Recent Eats. Check out his review on this whiskey and the subsequent comments on that post. This is an important underscore to the how subjective taste is. Regardless of what one person says or another, only your taste matters at the end of the day. Reviewers simply provide some observation. It’s also critical that you understand the reviewer and how he/she aligns with your tastes.

    That said, I can say that if anything I have underscored this whiskey a shade. As I’ve continued to sip from this bottle it has only gotten better and better.

  34. Michael B says:

    I opened my first 2013 OFBB last night to give the bottle some air and to grab a 1/2 oz sample out of the bottle. To give context, I recently have only been enamored with higher proof drams, but this juice is just intoxicating on the nose and the taste.

    The last time I remember instantly falling for a bourbon this quickly was my first sip of PVW 15 and the first time I came back to a 2 month home-vatted bottle of 50% Weller 12/ 50% Weller OWA.

    Even though this is a rye recipe, I highly recommend this Bourbon to fit in the same cabinet void that I would normally slot Van Winkles or my Wheated concoctions. This isn’t to say that I’m comparing the products, but rather WHEN I would reach for those bottles, I would also put this front and foremost in the decision process. This isn’t an incredibly deep finish or overly spicy Bourbon that lasts with you all night. This is grown-up dessert with delicate sweet tones (caramel/vanilla) that mingle with the spices to provide a very well-balanced drink that makes you feel like you’re enjoying dessert on the holidays.

    I’m more than happy and perplexed that some people have found this stuff to be offensive. Save more for me!!

  35. Ray O says:

    Jason, I read Sku’s review of OFBBB 2013 and thought that the reviewer’s taste experience was completely different than mine. Then again, everyone’s taste buds are different. For instance, I’ve seen many positive reviews of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve, but I can’t stand the stuff.

  36. @Michael B – You have absolutely hit the nail on the head here. This whiskeys nose and palate absolutely has an almost wheater like flavor profile.

  37. Danny G. says:

    I just got a bottle. Email me if you want it.

  38. Storcke says:

    Thanks, Jason. You’ve gotten me and two friends really excited about this one, and my favorite dealer has promised to get some for us.
    I also want to put in a good word for OF Signature. I discovered it accidentally this summer, and damn! it’s terrific. It immediately became my favorite $20 bottle, and my opinion goes up every time I go back to it. I notice that both sku and Cowdrey compare it favorably to all but the best vintages of OF Birthday, and your and Michael B’s comments about OFB’s wheater-like profile really hit a chord with me. I feel exactly the same about OFS.

  39. sam k says:

    Old Forester 86 proof is no slouch, either. I’m not sure why B-F continues to heavily market Early Times and not this excellent legacy brand, which, with the exception of the Birthday releases, they seem to completely ignore.

  40. Peter says:

    Well, the bottles I ordered finally came in and I wasted no time coming home, cracking one open and pouring a glass. I really have enjoyed all the OFBB’s so I was hopeful about this one, and after reading Jason’s review I was REALLY excited to get my taste. I will say….I was not disappointed. This bourbon has a epic nose. I get tons of vanilla and caramel, oak…and I actually get a fair amount of dark chocolate…and then an underlying tone of fresh berries and raisins. On the palate I get vanilla, lots of oak…and an almost butter pecan ice cream type flavor. For me it is really as someone said earlier…like an adult dessert in glass. The finish is warm and leaves lots of nutmeg and baking spices, although it is a relatively short finish (really my only knock). I am really glad I secured 2 bottles of this as it was already sold out before it hit the shelves. At only $32 here, this is by far the best bourbon in the price range and probably my favorite behind PVW and JR18. Great stuff….

  41. brise says:

    I just picked up a couple bottles of this, and WOW! amazing! How do these distillers do this? It is literally bananas foster and a little creme brule in a glass! Love the reviews Jason – keep them coming!

  42. Nick says:

    A bit off topic here, but…

    I just got my hands on a bottle of Old Forester Single Barrel! Can’t wait to try it. Will report my findings.

    Has anyone had a bottle of this? I didn’t even know it existed.

  43. Nick says:

    First, the OF single barrel is tremendous. Second, I must have got a “bad batch” here. I thought this bottle was crazy thin. I put it up to last years bottle and there is no comparison. Seek the 2012!

  44. Bocephus says:

    lets go while we are young!!

  45. I am planning to have a Bourbon Party and this is definitely going to be added to the list. Thanks Dan

  46. Brad says:

    Just picked up a bottle in Idaho for $45 out the door, looking forward to an very nice evening!

  47. Josh says:

    $45??? Man, go back and grab whatever they still have, if any. I know folks who’ve recently paid $100 for bottles and would have bought more, if they could. It’s one beautiful bottle of whiskey and given what people seem to be willing to pony up for other Bourbons and Ryes these days (not to mention Scotch), $100 is actually a very fair price for its quality.

  48. Joe says:

    What? $100 for Old Forester Birthday Bourbon? It was $38 around here. There are very few bourbons I would spend $100 on and this, while good, is not one of them.

  49. Weav says:

    I picked up five bottles not long ago in Washington. Sold two to friends, drinking one and bunkering the other two. Great stuff.

  50. KyCrooner says:

    I have a bottle of this and was expecting a real treat, and I boy was I disappointed. A friend in Tennessee found it for me and brought up to me in Kentucky. It cost him $55. First, let me say that I have never been a fan of Old Forester, but with all the enthusiasm about this bourbon, I was really excited to taste it being 12-yo and all. Now, after having spent a casual night or two sipping this, frankly, I would trade this for a bottle of Blanton’s or Weller 12-year all day. Have to say that for a BF product, I’d would rather have Woodford Reserve. No more Old Fo’ for this bourbon fan.

4 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Very excited to find this! It scored a 9.5 on the Sour Mash Manifesto. [...]

  2. [...] reviews: Sour Mash Manifesto: 9.5 (Superb), Malt Advocate: “The best tasting (and best balanced) OFBB release in many [...]

  3. [...] year’s limited edition, which has been getting some really good word of mouth. Jason over at Sour Mash Manifesto called it a “must try” – and he’s not the only one that seems to be [...]

  4. [...] has caused quite a stir among the whiskey blogging community. Two prominent bloggers, Jason Pyle of Sour Mash Manifesto and Steve Ury of Sku’s Recent Eats each gave polarizing reviews. The reaction to the reviews [...]

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