Review: 2015 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

The 2015 edition of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is the 14th release to commemorate (Brown-Forman and Old Forester founder) George Garvin Brown’s September 2nd birthday. This 12 year old bourbon was bottled from a single day of production, June 13, 2003 and aged in one location. According to the distillery it was also aged somewhat aggressively near a window and heat cycling duct. As a result the barrels were exposed to higher temperatures than normal. How does this impact the 2015? Let’s find out.

birthday_20152015 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon , 50% abv (100 Proof), $70/bottle
Color: Medium Amber
Nose: Big, rich nose of vanilla, butterscotch, burned caramel, heaps of wood spices (cinnamon and clove), hints of orange peel, and a healthy dose of oak. Not nearly as much fruit character on the nose vs. previous releases, but I like the wallop. Responds well with some water.
Palate: Creamy vanilla, dark dark caramel syrup, molasses, barrel char, and cinnamon red hots. Sweet and spicy with a lot of zip. The heat from the proof and the spice calm quickly with a few drops of water, revealing candied orange and golden raisin.
Finish: Charred oak, caramel sweetness and cinnamon spice linger a long long time. Beautiful.
Overall: I always find the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon nose to be a real masterclass. While not nearly as nuanced as previous years, the 2015 is stellar in it’s own right. On the palate the proof and spice mingle with the creamy sweetness to create something quite different. It’s perhaps not as well rounded as past releases, but it comes off well here. Clearly the distillery was going for something a bit bolder and brasher than previous releases, and they executed well. The price is much higher, but what limited release isn’t these days? It’s an outstanding pour.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.1 (Outstanding)

31 Comments

  1. Nick says:

    I hate to say this, but I can’t buy this bottle based on price. Just a few years ago I was buying this for 45.00. 70.00 is insane for OFBB. It’s always good, but it’s not a 70.00 bottle.

  2. Nick, I completely get your point. I too hate hate hate having to spend $30+ more that I did a few years ago for the same whiskeys. But this is also the times in which we live. When you review all of the limited release offerings out there, it’s rare to find them under $60-70. I’m not defending it I assure you, but it’s also not going to change anytime soon. This is a great one if the notes and the character/attitude of the whiskey suit your tastes. Cheers!

  3. Great review Jason and hope to see more of your reviews as Bourbin season turns to full swing. I agree with what you guys say it is tough seeing these price hikes but it was only a matter of time. I shouldn’t speak so soon but I work for a large liquor chain on the west coast and somehow our price hasn’t jumped from 43.99 which is odd considering g I’m in CA. Your review sounds stellar and I am thoroughly looking forward to this years release and am eager to be putting up a review of my own. Cheers Jason.

  4. Andy says:

    Great to have you back Jason!!!

    I just picked up a bottle of this today (one of six my favorite retailer was able to get and they are the largest and best in New Jersey).

    Looking forward to enjoying it with friends and family – price is price – you only live once!

    Drink the best and enjoy it.

  5. Howard says:

    So glad to see u back. I just tried bernheims a wheated whiskey from heaven hill. Reasonably priced interested on your take

  6. DJ Mal says:

    Unfortunately, it truly is a sign of the times. If they sold for $40 the resellers would grab them all and sell for $70, so I’d rather see the distillery get the money. But I’m still concentrating on the great under $40 offerings that the hipsters have not discovered yet.

  7. Adam G. says:

    I have always enjoyed old forester birthday bourbon, and was looking forward to this years release, but at 70.00 I’m passing, if we buy at 70.00 they will next push it to 80.00 or 100.00, it’s a great pour but there’s other great brands for less. Elijah Craig barrel proof or Bookers all at about 50.00 bucks a bottle, and Eagle rare 10 year is still my favorite at around 27.00 a bottle.

  8. BillM says:

    I’m out. Too rich for my blood. I bought a few bottles of the 2013 vintage, which was very good. I think I paid $55 ea at the time. Drank one, saved one, and gave one away…the best way to enjoy fine whiskey. But, not this year. Think I’ll wait for the tulip bubble to burst.

  9. Sam Komlenic says:

    Jason, as I live and breathe, you’re back! I may not have access to this bottling (I live in the control state of PA), but I’ve been following the Abraham Bowman releases for the last few years, and at $70 each they’re an education in what can be done, on a higher scale, with American whiskey.

    At that price I’m privileged to be along for the ride, as they’re amazingly innovative with those releases. Drink what floats your boat!

  10. Nick says:

    I should have said this in the first post, but it’s tremendous to see you writing again!

    The price of our old stand-by’s seemingly jumps by the day it seems. Great for the industry, but a bit hard to swallow (no pun intended). It’s just a supply and demand thing, I get it.

    On a side note… At one time I was very close to Butch Jones and his football programs up North. I have an abundance of respect for him. There is a lot to that man that most people don’t see. However, I can tell you that his style of conditioning is NOT conducive to winning games in the 4th quarter (IMHO). And yes coach, go for 2!!!

  11. BWIII says:

    Another year, another swath of pissed off customers. Never ends. Yes, I too, bought OFBB for $35 in 2012 and 2013…then $50 last year and now $70.

    But I could also name ten other terrible, NAS bourbons or “craft” wannabees that are $70 or more that no one wants that will collect dust for years.

    I’m seeing offers to BUY this years release at $175. Next year it will be $250. So what?

    Thanks for the review. I absolutely agree on the nose quality. If only I could snort the stuff.

  12. Adam says:

    Nick, I couldn’t agree with you more. In the past, this release was the “value” special release. I’m passing at $70. There are too many other good bourbons out there for less money. I can’t blame the company for trying to get higher margins but the magnitude of the price hike is too much. Old Forester lost me as a customer.

  13. Dave from Michigan says:

    Bourbon’s like this raise a classic question for my friends and I. What role does practicality play in our bourbon selection? If it’s completely driven by what’s practical, there are plenty of bourbons that rate just as well for half the price. Is there a price to quality sweet spot? I’m a pretty practical guy, so I will not buy this bourbon at $70 a bottle, but I gladly bought it at $45. Most of what I buy falls in the $25-35 window. For me, this is a sweet spot where I can get all the quality I need. But occasionally, I step outside of that window for something like a Four Roses Limited Edition or some other somewhat special bottle. But for me, the OFBB doesn’t bring enough uniqueness or quality to warrant “the price of admission.” Andy is right though, “price is price” and “you do only live once” and for this price I would rather have a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel AND a Bottle of Elijah Craig AND a little change left in my pocket. Great to hear from you Jason.

  14. Cody says:

    I actually just picked this up at Totalwine for $50 in Tucson, so it really depends on location. It was the very last one, and I was lucky enough to also get the last E.H. Taylor Single Barrel there too. Thanks for the review, it makes the anticipation of getting home from work even greater now.

    Also, I’ve never been a big fan of the original Old Forester. It had a fruitcake-like finish that turned me off. This has kept me from trying the 100 proof signature version. Is there more of a difference between those two in your opinion?

  15. Derrick says:

    I don’t know where you guys are paying $70 but I paid $50 and the juice is fantastic, worth every penny.

  16. Dave from Michigan says:

    Derrick, I would definitely pick this up for $50. Where do you live where you can do that? In Michigan, the state sets a minimum price then taxes us to death. It’s in the top ten worst states for liquor purchases. The idea of the government controlling the retailers price points drives me insane, but it is what it is. Btw… Michigan is also what’s called a “closed state” so we can’t have liquor shipped to us from out of state.

  17. Ben says:

    The price debate is interesting. I don’t actually find a huge difference between expensive and inexpensive bourbons. One of the wonders of bourbon is that a $20 bottle of Old Granddad BIB or Wild Turkey 101 will be truly enjoyable. (Not the case with Scotch.)

    But the debate is really irrelevant with the Birthday Bourbon because I have never seen it in any liquor store anywhere ever. Not in little corner stores. Not in huge liquor barns. It’s nowhere to be found.

  18. Kevin Carlson says:

    I just bought a bottle in Boise Idaho for $55 including tax. It’s bigger, richer, and more complex than the 2014. Jason’s analysis is spot on, as always. It really opens up in his best enjoyed with a splash of water as Jason prescribed. It is much more complex and engaging than Blantons or Elmer T. With which it shares a similar Mash bill. If you can find it by it.

  19. Chris says:

    I was fortunate to buy the last couple years of this so I have something to compare to. When first opened, this is much more aggressive with the burn and has less of that incredible nose Ive come to enjoy with Birthday. I didnt like this at all first pour out of the bottle. Fast forward 6 weeks. I revisited it and much to my surprise, the burn had mellowed down and I got more of the classic Birthday nose. Tasted great too!. I guess I dont have buyers remorse anymore. I will agree that it is more “in your face” than the last couple of years.

  20. Larry says:

    I just saw this at a local store in Aiken, SC. The price was$249.00! I was just plain “pissed off”! They had a few select bottles and all of the marked way up! I hope they sit there for ten years. There’s no excuse for price gouging. That just run business off.

  21. Billy just came across you blog and he thinks he may become a frequent visitor. Billy is calling his local store as soon as he gets done writ’n all this down. Thanks for a well detailed description cause Billy is always in search of just one more awesome Bourbon. Billy Hill here, I like it neat.

  22. Ed says:

    Cody,
    Try the Old Forester 100 proof Signature. It is becoming increasingly more available and at about $20 a bottle it is a lot of bourbon for the money. I have to be in the mood for the 86 proof but the 100 proof is always good.

    Jason,
    It would be an interesting review to compare the 100 proof Signature to Old Foresters more expensive offerings.

  23. Jerry says:

    I personally did not care for this one at all. I gave the rest to a friend.

  24. Dave from Michigan says:

    Hi All. Jason, I hope you are doing well. Question: I just purchased a new cabinet solely for the purpose of housing my bourbon collection. As I was stocking it, I started thinking about the “staple” bourbons I always try to have around. Anyone, what are some of your “staple” bourbons? Maybe you have a “house” bourbon? For me, I always try to have Elijah Craig, Eagle Rare, EWSB, Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey 101, etc. I may not always have all of them, but these are certainly “staples” for me. Then when I can get it I pick up EW 1783 when in Indiana for the house… good on ice and for making cocktails. It’s like $12 in Indiana and almost $20 in Michigan (stupid state regulation). Anyway, I’d love to hear some more thoughts.

  25. phillip says:

    Dave From Michigan: I too hope all is well with Jason. It’s been 9 months since he last posted a review on this site and I really miss his Bourbon expertise & knowledge. I agree with all of the “staples” that you listed in your post. One that I might suggest you consider, as a table/mixer Bourbon, is Very Old Barton, Bottled-In-Bond, 100 proof. It’s about $27 for a 1.75 lt. bottle here in Tn. I’ve been using it for several yrs. and found it to be a pretty good bang for the buck. It was a labeled 6 yr. but went to No Age Statement a couple of yrs. back. It’s usually easy to find. If you should try it please let me know what you think of it. And Jason, if you’re reading any of this, we would love for you to start posting some of your Bourbon reviews again (hint, hint)!

  26. Phillip and Dave – hope you both are well. I’m reading, and who knows about posting. All is definitely well, and I’m certain this site will be back in full force one day. Thanks for the support.

  27. Dave from Michigan says:

    Phillip, unfortunately I can’t get VOB BIB up here. We only get the 86 proof offering. I agree though, I’ve picked up the BIB when I’ve found it out of state and it is a great bourbon bargain!

    Jason, no worries buddy. You have a life outside of bourbon and I appreciate your priorities. I just love checking in here and seeing if there is any new content or discussion.

    I’ve wondered if there are any bourbon discussion forums any of you use. Maybe that could be a future offering of this great website.

  28. My last meal would be pork barbeque with a baked sweet potato slathered with butter & cinnamon sugar…..or maybe chicken parmesan with herbed foccacia bread. I guess I have to die twice *0*

  29. John says:

    Forester Bday never sees the shelf in Arkansas – pretty much have to know when it’s coming in and hound the store. Anybody know the approximate release schedule for this year?

  30. Tim Markwood says:

    Wow,

    I guess this web-site is pretty much dead. It has been 10 months and no new reviews.

    Sad! :-(

  31. Steve from Indiana says:

    Jason…tomorrow marks 1 year since your last review. What are the chances that you will end your sabbatical with a review of the 2016 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon?