It took me three tries this month to find a selection worthy of the Bourbon & Battles #BourbonOfTheMonth title, but I finally found a bottle you should consider picking up for your Halloween parties over the weekend. Or to hoard for yourself while you pass out candy. Whatever carves your pumpkin.
Here’s your October B&B BotM:
Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond
Thoughts: Old Forester was always a brand that was on my “get to eventually” list, but it moved up to “do it now” status when I failed to secure a bottle of coveted Birthday Bourbon. To compensate, I picked up the 1897 label, so named because that was the year of the Bottled-in-Bond Act (see my May 2016 #BotM post for more on that). There’s also an 1870 Original Batch, which was the first in the “Whiskey Row” series, 1897 being second.
Old Forester shares the same mash bill as its Brown-Forman Corporation sister brand Woodford Reserve (72% corn, 18% rye, 10% barley). It may come as no surprise, then, that I recommend this bourbon after declaring Woodford Reserve Double Oaked as one of my all-time favorite bourbons in April.
1897 is a tasty bourbon that gets it right. If you want to know what a good bourbon should taste like, start here. As one redditor put it, “it’s a bourbon-y bourbon, if you know what I mean.”
Some History: I mention that OF and WR have the same mash bill—one that I like a lot. Well, Old Forester did it first, and Woodford Reserve is a baby by comparison.
George Garvin Brown introduced Old Forester to the world (or, more locally, to Louisville, Kentucky) in 1870. Hence the 1870 label. With Old Forester, $5,500 in startup funds, and a partnership with his half brother (who somehow worked it so the company was named after him), Brown started up J.T.S. Brown and Bro. In the ensuing years, partnerships would change, and Brown eventually teamed up with his pal George Forman (no relation) to form Brown-Forman, a corporation that still exists today, still owned and operated by the Brown family. (More about Brown-Forman later.)
They were the first to bottle their whiskey exclusively in glass bottles. Brown, a pharmaceuticals salesman by trade, new what he was doing. Whiskey was still frequently sold for its “medicinal qualities,” and it was perhaps because of this history that, when the company applied for a federal license to continue manufacturing whiskey for medicinal purposes during Prohibition, the government approved the license.
Because they started in 1870, manufactured legally through Prohibition, and continue to bottle to this day, Old Forester is the longest bottled bourbon on the market. And that’s even more impressive when you stop to consider that Brown-Forman is just as old, and the Brown family still commands a vast majority of the corporation’s voting shares.
Parting Words: As good as Old Forester 1897 is, and as storied the brand’s history, Brown-Forman made its money from later acquisitions. It bought Early Times in 1923, a whiskey that would go on to be the #1 selling whiskey in the country. In 1956, it acquired the Jack Daniels brand and the Lynchburg, Tennessee facilities. They snagged Southern Comfort in the 1970s (although they ended up dumping it earlier this year), restored the Labrot & Graham Distillery to begin distributing Woodford Reserve in the ’90s, and picked up a number of other brands along the way (like Canadian Mist, three kinds of Scotch, other liquors, and wine and champagne labels).
Brown-Forman is an impressive American company that, for almost 150 years straight, has championed delicious booze.
Whether you dress up for Halloween or leave the costumes for the kids, celebrate the 31st with a glass of Old Forester 1897.
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