Old Forester 2012 Birthday Bourbon
Ok, it's not my birthday yet. But I already got myself a present. It's my favorite-ever bourbon, one I've been searching for since early last year. Even if it weren't called Birthday Bourbon, I think it would make a mighty nice gift. Allow me to introduce you to Old Forester 2012 Birthday Bourbon.
While researching a story on bourbon experiences in Louisville last year, I had the good fortune to sit down with Brown-Forman master distiller Chris Morris in one of their warehouses in Shively, Kentucky. I was there to check out their Old Forester barrel purchase program, and as part of that (exceedingly awesome) experience, I got to taste the 2012 Birthday Bourbon.
Each year, Birthday Bourbon commemorates the birthday of company founder George Garvin Brown, who was born September 2, 1846 (had he been born four days earlier we would share a birthday!). Chris chose 82 barrels from a sweet spot in a couple warehouses for this bottling, but here's the thing: the whiskey in those barrels was the result of a little accident on the mash floor. It seems, you see, that the operator put a bit too much barley in the mash. I'm only a beginning enthusiast, so I can't tell you scientifically what that did. What I can tell you is that this 97 proof, 12-year bourbon ended up with the most magical, hazelnutty flavor I've encountered in a whiskey.
A sommelier once joked to a wine class I was taking that a particular wine had notes of Nutella, then hastened to add that he was just kidding. But those roasted hazelnut notes that make Nutella so luscious are exactly what I find in the 2012 Birthday Bourbon.
I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since, and have scoured the state looking for it. It was long gone in Louisville by the time I discovered it in March of 2013, so every drive to another part of the state included a stop at a liquor store to see if I might find the golden ticket -- a bottle of 2012 Birthday. I got a lot of practice being laughed out of shops, but hey, you never know. There was a false alarm with a 2013 Birthday that made me almost give up. Then, at last I found a local bar owner who fessed up that he had two bottles at home, and yes, he would be willing to sell me one.
So far I've just admired the bottle, and thought about opening it. It's a matter of when, not if -- I know whiskey's meant for drinking -- but I need to settle on the right date. Maybe my birthday in August, or perhaps even old George Garvin's birthday. Or, maybe tonight. Happy birthday to me!