Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015 vs 2016

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!

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Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015 vs 2016

 

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.

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Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2016

 

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.

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Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2015

 

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!

[Scotch]

Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18 year Barrel no 4219 Barreled on 11-18-97

This single barrel bourbon isn’t like the normal blends from multiple barrels that other bourbons are usually created from. Tagged as “Super Premium”, this whisky is aged in a single barrel for the full 18 years and then bottled when deemed ready by Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam. First introduced in 1994, they discontinued the 18 year in 2012 after the demand for whiskey grew too great and there weren’t enough 18 year old barrels to meet it. They did however bring it back in 2015. Back for good? Not too sure, but we snagged a couple bottles to taste and see what all the hubbub is about.

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Elijah Craig Single Barrel 18 year

C: Sunset orange with glints of reddish orange around the rim.

N: The smell you get from peeling an orange is the first thing that I get on the nose. That spritz of orange essential oils spraying into the air and perfuming everything, even your fingers and everything you touch afterwards. That is immediately followed by old oak, a little stale and musty saturated oak. Like under-ripe plum skins and over ripe apples sitting on your kitchen countertop that should have been eaten last week. It definitely smells rich and powerful, just not too sure yet if that’s a good thing or not. Oh, and a very faint ripe banana smell.

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Elijah Craig 18 year ScotcNSniff Glencairn

P: It is rich. And I’m immediately slapped in the face with oak, followed by that random banana. 90 proof plays the slow roll and gently singes the outer ends of your tongue. It’s spicy though, not to be mistaken with alcohol burn. The oak is extremely present but dark cocoa and stale cinnamon spice are layering up a defense to add something to the playing field. Smyrna Figs come through in a layer followed with raisins and black strap molasses. This is far better than the 23 year, you can actually taste things. Yeah, the figs are strong in this one.

F: The finish is full flavored. Full of spice, dry cocoa, nutmeg, dusty old cinnamon that you should have used 5 years ago, white pepper, a toothpick you should have stopped chewing on 10 minutes ago and vanilla extract. The oak is ever present in this expression, slightly dominating every aspect of the tasting, but somehow it does work. This bottle is a niche type of bourbon that a certain super premium bourbon buyer will want to have in there collection. There are definitely better values out there and I truly believe you’re not missing out on anything not buying this. But it is unique and always fun to explore.

[Scotch]

BACKROOM Bourbon review

This blend of Bourbon straight whiskeys from District Distilling Co. seems to have popped up out of nowhere. One day I walk into my local liquor store and see the regular old faces, the next day I see this bright orange label staring back at me. I try to support local people whenever I have the chance and I noticed that this company is basically right down the street from where I live. So I think, let’s give it a go!

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BACKROOM Bourbon

C: The color is vivid orange, like the label, with bright spots around the edges. There is sediment in my glass, which looks like barrel char, but the bottle doesn’t state whether it’s non-chill filtered, chill filtered or filtered period.

N: Surprisingly enough, even at 48.5% abv, I can still stick my nose straight into the glass and smell nothing but sweet fig, toffee and caramel goodness. Not quite sure of what the mash bill is for the bottle, the company is going to email us with a response, but it definitely smells like it has a high corn ratio and definitely some spice richness from rye. We’ll have to update this post as soon as we hear back. Continuing to nose, I get black licorice, not something that I normally find while nosing whisk(e)y but this one sticks out. A little bit of toasted oak and then more of the vanilla sweet stuff. The nose is a little short and one-sided and maybe needs some time or water to open it up.

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BACKROOM Bourbon

P: Initial taste is a soft-ish floral vanilla sweetness and spice, slow to build in the mouth. Second sip reveals a little tobacco mixed with light brown sugar. The mouth feel is light and a soft creaminess develops as it coats my palate. All of the flavor, spice and warmth seem to be lingering right at the front of my mouth, leaving the mid-palate and back of my mouth as if I haven’t sipped anything. Peculiar.

F: Short. Stronger oak replaces the sweetness and licorice type spice. A little burn continues under the front of my tongue, but again, silence in the background. A little bit of water added to the glass reveals more minty characteristics and brings out oaky woodiness a little more, without the wood-sour aspect that water can sometimes do.

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BACKROOM Bourbon a blend of straight bourbon whiskeys

The website says that this bourbon is perfect on ice or in your favorite cocktail. I would completely agree with that. It has a strong enough flavor to withstand vermouth, lemon juice or even mint. I purchased this bottle for $45 and if I had a decision to purchase this bottle of “local” bourbon or some other $45 bourbon, I would buy this Backroom Bourbon again. I can’t wait to try something that District Distilling Co. distills on their own though, that’ll be the true test.

[Scotch]