Old Forester’s 2018 Birthday Bourbon Will Have Highest Proof to Date

Bottling and labeling at the Old Forester Distillery on Whiskey Row in Louisville, Kentucky.

The new batch of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is on its way to retailers, and 2018’s release will see the highest proof to date.

The 2018 vintage is made up of 120 barrels that created about 2,400 six-bottle cases of finished product, at 101 proof.

All Birthday Bourbon releases are small batches made entirely from a single day’s production, and aged around 12 years. 2018’s release, distilled on June 9, 2006, matured in two locations: the third floor, northwest side of Warehouse J, and the third floor, northwest side of Warehouse I. And at 101, it’s the highest proof in the series’ 18 years of history.

Old Forester Master Taster Jackie Zykan, who selected this year’s vintage along with Master Distiller Chris Morris, teased the announcement this morning on Instagram.

We spoke with her this morning about Birthday Bourbon, and what led them to select this particular batch for 2018.

Every release of Birthday Bourbon, or OFBB as it’s colloquially known, has some special tag to it, from the year they released two proof points after a bit of a mix-up, to the year when the batch’s fermentation process was interrupted after a squirrel shorted out power to the distillery.

This year’s decisive force was something more direct: taste.

“At that 3 and half year birthday, says Zykan, “you kind of decide, “You’re going to grow up to be Bottled in Bond, you’re going to grow up to be Prohibition 1920.” [This batch] got a perfect score in evaluation,” says Zykan, “and had great structure and complexity.”

Old Forester still found a sentimental hook though, as 2018 marks the first batch bottled and processed at the new Old Forester Distillery on Whiskey Row. “This is the first time that we’ve actually bottled and processed on our own turf,” says Zykan, “so this is the first time that we’re actually able to absorb this fully in house.”

Old Forester describes this year’s batch as having a rich mahogany color (no leather-bound books), with cherry cobbler and herbal lemon tea on the nose. On the palate, they describe sweetness that brightens with lemon honey and more of that cherry cobbler. The finish is said to be long, drying, and full of herbal lemon honey sweetness.

We’re getting the sense that 2018 is going to be a gem among gems. Zykan told us she’ll probably end up waiting in line to get herself a bottle or two (even Chris Morris is only given one a year), and won’t be missing any chances to taste it in a professional capacity. “In the past few years I’ve opted out to give more consumers a chance to taste,” she says. “This year I will be saying yes to every opportunity. It is hands down one of the best vintages of the entire collection.”

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2018 will be on shelves around September 2, to coincide with the birthday of founder George Garvin Brown. It’s slated to retail just shy of $100.

We’ll be taking a look at this year’s vintage when we have samples in hand, so keep an eye on our Instagram feed for more.

G. Clay Whittaker
Clay is Editor at Large of The Bourbon Review. He has written about whiskey, food, drink, and culture for Esquire, Playboy, Men's Journal, Popular Science, Southern Living, Maxim, among others.