Old Forester has an annual release called Birthday Bourbon which is a limited-edition expression created to pay homage to founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday. Up for our comparison today we have the 2015 versus the 2016. You’re often times met with a decision when you go to the liquor store to choose one bottle. Hopefully after this tasting review, you’ll be able to decide which one to grab if you’re ever presented with the option.
The 2015 expression is offered at 100 Proof, while the 2016 is bottled at 97 proof. So if you’re a proof chaser, go ahead and pick the 2015, but if you want to take into consideration Color, Nose, Palate and Finish, let’s continue!
C: They are nearly identical with a medium rich mahogany color, with the 2016 variety slightly more red toned. Tie!
N: The 2015 has a fair amount of heat on the nose, accidentally singeing my hairs as I take mini whiffs. Wood sour notes but round oak with whipped cream and toasted marshmallow sweetness. Green grapes, kiwi skins and unripe strawberries floating in a lake of golden corn syrup. The 2016 is more vanilla orange creamsicle, honeyed oak, similar to that of the Balvenie house style. The 2016 seems lighter, very light caramel draped over a tart pear. Werthers Original candies with leather and oak bits dotted throughout. Both are solid winners but the 2015 edges out the nose with more toasted oak, toasted marshmallow and breakfast pastries.
P: Both of these have the obvious bourbon flavors of oak, vanilla, sour toffee/caramel flavors but these are the nuances that I can edge out in the tasting. The 2016 is a bright, fresh bourbon. Not too sweet on the palate with just enough caramel covered grape flavors, ending with a fresh cherry covered in dark cocoa powder, slightly mouth drying. The 2015 has a sweeter, hotter entry, hazelnuts and orange peel. There’s a grown up root beer flavor ending in a bitter but enjoyable sweet vermouth. Going back and forth a couple times with tasting them the 2016 just edges out the win.
F: The 2015 has a dusty nutmeg infused cocoa finish. Light rye spices linger midpalate, while a slightly drying oak, readies you for your next sip. The 2016 finishes with spice but with less of a pronounced Zip, Bang and Ptchanggg! The vanilla creeps back up near the end with the cocoa powder, but more flat than the 2015 finishes. 2015 wins, hands down for the finish.
Both of these bourbons are really nice, and we’re splitting hairs here. The fact that they’re relatively hard to get and that the secondary market lifts the price, really sucks. If it were up to us, we would make it available to everyone, but that’s just impossible. The quantities to appear to have increased from last year, so availability might not be that bad. I enjoy the 2015 more than the 2016, but that’s only by the slightest margin. Both are a solid buy for a very solid bourbon. Comment down below and let us know which one you grab or if you pick both up. Slainte!