Every fall, the whiskey world gets really excited when news about a new release from Old Forester arrives: the annual appearance of Birthday Bourbon, the highly collectible bottle that commemorates founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday. But something arguably even better and more exciting was just announced, a new entry in the Whiskey Row Series called 1924—and it might just be one of the best whiskeys from this Kentucky distillery to date.
Old Forester is well known and regarded for its affordable 86- and 100-proof core bourbon expressions, along with with a tasty rye whiskey that joined the lineup a few years ago. Then there is the Whiskey Row Series, a collection of bottles that are higher priced and usually quite good, each marking a historically significant event for the brand. 1924 was the year that Old Forester, one of the few distilleries allowed to operate during Prohibition with a medical license (back when people thought booze could actually cure diseases), was able to obtain a bunch of barrels from shuttered distilleries to bottle under its own name.
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Many of these barrels had mashbills which were different from the classic Old Forester recipe, which according to the brand is 72 percent corn, 18 percent rye, and 10 percent malted barley. So the new 1924 bourbon, of course, has its own mashbill—which, to be honest, is only slightly different with 79 percent corn, 11 percent rye, and 10 percent malted barley. That is the not the first time parent company Brown-Forman has used that particular mashbill, as the limited-edition, expensive, and high-proof King of Kentucky and the much more pedestrian Early Times (now owned by Sazerac) are also made using those proportions. And, just as importantly, this new bourbon has a 10-year-old age statement, which sets it apart from other Whiskey Row expressions. According to a rep for the brand, 1924 was distilled at the Brown-Forman distillery in Shively, Ky., and bottled at the Old Forester distillery on Whiskey Row in Louisville.
So what are the results of using different proportions of grain and allowing the whiskey to mature for a full decade? The answer is pretty simple: a really good bourbon. Despite the slightly higher percentage of corn and reduction of rye, there’s a nice bit of spice present (the fact that it’s bottled at 100 proof certainly helps). There are notes of caramel apple, cherry cobbler, wet leather, sweet pipe tobacco, and vanilla pudding on the palate, followed by some grapefruit tang, lemon custard, and a bit of concord grape fading into the finish. This is a fantastic sipping bourbon that would also enhance any cocktail you can think of making with it.
One has to wonder if 1924 will be easy to find for its suggested price, which is not exactly cheap at $115. The difference in age and mashbill might drive this up on the secondary market, which would be a shame because you can find similarly aged bourbons out there for half the price. But this new Old Forester release is absolutely worth trying if you can find a bottle somewhere close to the SRP because, despite the quirks and features that separate it from the rest of the lineup, it’s just a really tasty, solid bourbon.
100: Worth trading your first born for
95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this
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