September is bourbon’s biggest month, and Old Forester is celebrating in more ways than one. While their famous Birthday Bourbon will be arriving at the distillery on September 3rd, next month their double-barreled 1910 will finally be returning to shelves all across the country.
Old Forester’s 1910 was one of the most popular new releases in 2018 – so popular, in fact, that the distillery sold through a year’s supply in just 60 days. This year, the distillery has prepared for that demand across all 50 states.
“Our best roadmap to understanding volume and demand has been to look at what our other [bourbons] have done. Historically, our 1920 has been the most successful. So for [the first release] we basically looked at how much we made when we rolled that out, and added 20 to 30 percent,” explains Campbell Brown, Old Forester President.
“We sold out in 60 days and it didn’t even make it to every state in the US – it only made it to about 30 states. So there’s still a good portion of the US that’s never had it on their shelves,” says Brown.
The distillery’s Whiskey Row Series features four different bourbons, all paying homage to a specific point in their history. The first, 1870, honors the year they were founded by George Garvin Brown with a light yet spicy 90 proof bourbon. The second, 1897, remembers the year the Bottled-in-Bond Act was passed with a 100-proof, minimum 4-year expression. The third is the high-proof 1920, crafted to represent a Prohibition-style whiskey. Last year, Old Forester completed their collection with 1910, Old Fine Whisky, commemorating a special bourbon bottled after a fire at the distillery that year.
“The fire that occurred in 1910, they were getting ready to process [the bourbon] at the bottling line they were using in that era, and when the fire was recognized they had to kind of quickly move whiskey out of the room,” tells Brown. “They were able to put it into different barrels and saved the whiskey and kind of forgot about it. Some months later, when they pulled it out and were ready to bottle it, Owsley Brown at the time, tasted it and felt that it was very different from what Old Forester was supposed to tasted like. He did a special bottling and label and called it Old Fine Whisky.”
To try to (safely) replicate that taste profile, Old Forester 1910 takes a matured bourbon at 100 proof and re-barrels it in a second, very heavily charred barrel. The second barrel is specially crafted at the Brown-Forman Cooperage, charred for twice the amount of time as a standard barrel. The bourbon inside is aged seven to nine months, then bottled at 93 proof.
“The issue here [with selling out] is that we had to be able to build the second barrel, and the second barrel is a different barrel than any of the other barrels we use for Old Forester,” explains Brown. “It requires that we reallocate a bunch of time at the cooperage to only make that barrel, and we need a lot of them. So its these various timelines that all need to be put in place, and it’s a lot more complicated to bring to market than a regular single barrel product or a blend of barrels.”
Bourbon lovers will be relieved to know they haven’t been alone in missing this expression. “I ran out of this stuff in my own house about two months ago – and I remember vividly that moment,” Brown laughs. ”I find with the Whiskey Row they all kind of hit you differently, but 1910 is a favorite because it’s so different from any other Old Forester. I just find it fun – how we can manipulate the barrel and the char and the toast and within seven to nine months we can influence the flavor so dramatically – it just blows my mind. It’s so much darker and just such a rich chocolately cherry.”
“I’ve tasted the new batch and it’s right where you hoped it would be,” he continues. “I’m not a trained palate like Jackie [Zykan], our Master Taster, but she is a wonderful sounding board and she holds us accountable to everything around here. She would not have let that stuff out of the barrel had it tasted any different than it did a year ago. If we can’t replicate it then we’re not really doing our jobs.”
“The inspiration for each expression in our Whiskey Row Series comes from special moments in Old Forester’s nearly 150-year history, and the story behind 1910 – the first documented double-barreled bourbon – is one for the books,” said Zykan in a press release. “Today’s iteration gives a nod to that moment in our history, and has an exceptionally rich, chocolatey flavor profile that makes for a very smooth bourbon. It’s easy to see why so many bourbon drinkers have fallen hard for it!”
Zykan’s official tasting notes include a nose with “layers of buttercream, sticky toffee, cedar, and apricot,: and a “smooth, well-rounded mingling of sweet oatmeal raisin cookie and milk chocolate, leading into caramel corn and evolving spice” on the palate. The finish, she says, has “charred oak leads with a clean peripheral spice.”
Bottles will be hitting shelves at the distillery tomorrow, Tuesday August 27th, and find their way across the country in the coming weeks. Fans will also be happy to know that the price will remain the same at around $55 – and that Old Forester has laid down even more of those special second barrels for next year. Link here to learn more about the distillery.