2009 Old Forrester Birthday Bourbon Review

Old Forrester Birthday Bourbon (OFBB) is an annual release from Brown-Forman. This 2009 OFBB is a 12 year expression bottled at 48.5% ABV.

Nose: Banana runts (classic Brown-Forman note for me), rich corn, sweet oak with a hint of caramel

Palate: Again, BF fruitiness here with spiced oak and prominent bananas

Finish: Fairly simple and short – oak with black pepper and mild fruits

Rating: 90/100 – I’m a Brown-Forman fan as I typically like my bourbons on the sweeter side and this one didn’t disappoint. The older OFBB bottles had something special about them too compared to the most recent few releases.

Value for the money: I paid $12 an oz for this and finished the bottle at Twisted Spoke in Chicago. Would gladly pay that again. A bottle of this on the secondary would run you closer to $200-$300 which is an easy pass.

Willett 21 Year (C10 Barrel) Review

This is a 21 year Willett bottled for Delilah’s 21st Anniversary. The C letter in the barrel indicates a wheated mashbill. This was bottled at 50% ABV.

Nose: Light and airy wheat with vanilla undertones. Heavy dry oak notes with dark berries and figs.

Palate: Quite oaky up front with brown sugar, pepper, and subtle wheat

Finish: Mostly oak with wheat/vanilla

Rating: 89/100 – A solid wheated Willett, but a bit on the overoaked side in the end. Would love to try this at 12-16 years.

Value for the money: I paid $25 an oz to try this at Delilah’s which is a pretty fair price considering what Willett C barrels typically go for. 

Michter’s 25 Rye Review

This is a 25 year straight-rye from Michter’s bottled at 58.7%. It’s officially the oldest rye I’ve had and was excited to be able to try it at Delilah’s in Chicago.

Nose: Wow – what a stunning nose on this one. Raw dough with massive yeast notes with perfect oak complement. It’s like burying your face in a ball of damp, yeasty dough – the rye is surprisingly minmal. A bit of berries with cinnamon/nutmeg toward the end.

Palate: Sweeping rye notes take on a much earthier profile – less doughy overall, but still quite rich.

Finish: Bold rye with perfect level of oak and a bit of spice and yeast.

Rating: 95/100 – The best rye I’ve had – still think about this one from time to time.

Value for the money: These are going for close to $2,000 on the secondary (if not more). I paid $65 for an oz at Delilah’s, and I would gladly pay that again to try this.

Old Mock Review

Old Mock is a Stitzel-Weller distilled bourbon that was distilled in 1916 and bottled in 1933. I tried this at Delilah’s in Chicago as it was kind of a once in a lifetime bottle for me – I had never had any pre-prohibition before and couldn’t say no despite the hefty price tag.

Nose: Possibly the most buttery nose I’ve encountered in bourbon. Sweeping wheat notes with intense vanilla bean. Oak influence is surprisingly minimal for a 17 year old bourbon.

Palate: Oak much more evident here with a decayed profile, but lacks the musty cardboard profile I get from a lot of other old bourbons (50s/60s distillate). Still quite buttery with rich cake batter.

Finish: Butterscotch and sweet wheat with a bit of caramel and oak – brilliant finish overall

Rating: 95/100 – One of the best bourbons I’ve had. I’m partial to wheated bourbons in the first place, but this was something truly special.

Value for the money: It runs $150 an oz at Delilahs, but I’d still recommend it as it’s one of the few opportunities (if not the only) that most people have to try something this old.

Wild Turkey Tribute (US Version) Review

Wild Turkey Tribute was a 15 year expression bottled at 50.5% ABV. There was a US and Japanese release with the Japanese release only being different in that it was bottled at 55% ABV.

Nose: Classic older Wild Turkey profile – sweet cupcake like nose with a lot of spiced oak – almost seems wheated with the sweet/buttery notes.

Palate: On the palate, fairly reminiscent of the Wild Turkey Donut bottle – fairly oak heavy with a peppery grain – caramel and molasses.

Finish: Oak dominant with a bit of sweet corn – lasts for a good while.

Rating: 92/100 – A great older Wild Turkey, but not sure I’d put it that much above some of the other classic bottles from 80s/90s e.g. Donut, Cheesy Gold Foil, Split Label, etc.

Value for the money: I paid $25 for a pour of this at Delilah’s in Chicago and would easily recommend trying it for that much. Full bottles go for $800-$1000 which is an easy pass.

Old Pulteney 21 Review

This particular Old Pulteney 21 was from a friend’s bottle from 2012. I don’t expect it changes much year over year, but some malts are known to be better some years over others. This 21 year expression is bottled at 46%. It won some notoriety when it was announced as the Whisky of the Year in the 2012 Whisky Bible by Jim Murray.

Nose: Extraoridnarily briny with damp vegetal notes. Muddled fruits mixed with a decomposing oak with a hint of cigarette smoke.

Palate: Mostly brine again with strong oak – fruits become a bit less muddled and come through as an underripe strawberry primarily. Smoky malt lingers in the background

Finish: Malt emerges and lasts a long time supported by a bit of aged oak and pipe tobacco

Rating: 88/100 – Quite a smoky dram, but complex and unique in its own right.

Value for the money: I believe these are retailing for around $120-$140 these days which isn’t too far off base for what you get.

Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve Review

The Founder’s Reserve is Glen Garioch’s NAS inexpensive offering as part of its core line. It’s bottled at 48% ABV.

Nose: Brine, wet clay, dough/yeast with loads of young malt and bitter oak.

Palate: Quite sweet up front turning a bit grainy – oak starts to pull through and malt takes on a funky note. This has to be quite young based on the malt profile – I would guess maybe 4-6 years.

Finish: Tart green apples and dark chocolate

Rating: 80/100 – Not bad but its youth holds it back a bit

Value for the money: These go for around $40-$45, but I can’t recommend it at that level as there are other solid offerings in the same price range e.g. Dalwhinnie 15, Quinta Ruban, Macallan 10 Fine Oak, etc.

Abraham Bowman Coffee Finish Review

This expression was aged for around 9 years and finished in a barrel which was previously used by a local coffee roaster to hold coffee beans.  It was bottled at 67.3% ABV.

Nose: Totally different nose – takes you by surprise. Layers of dark chocolate wrapped around a sweet underlying grain – very young oak with charcoal followed by overwhelming coffee notes. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I’ve been around it enough to be amazed at the strength of it in this bottle.

Palate: Heat is intense off the bat, but once you get past that the strong dark coffee notes take over alongside bitter greens and dark chocolate. This is definitely in a category of its own for better or worse.

Finish: Bitter coffee and toasted oak linger for some time.

Rating: 82/100 – a very fascinating pour, but maybe a bit too intense for me. If you’re a big coffee drinker, you might find this one a tad more enjoyable.

Value for the money: I haven’t seen these sold in awhile, but would guess they’re around $150-$200 as the limited AB releases go quickly. I don’t see this being worth paying over $70-80 for.

Ardmore 16 Review

This is a cask strength Ardmore 16 from Gordon & MacPhail which is bottled at 57.34% ABV.

Nose: Light malt with lavendar, damp oak, dried grass, and floral notes

Palate: Heavy cinnamon and pepper seasoned oak, bright malt with some old hay – sort of reminds me of a non-sherried Mortlach

Finish: Dry and hot with oak and sugary malt lingering

Rating: 84/100 – no frills dram that presents a slight farm style. Would be interesting to see what a sherry finish would do for this dram.

Value for the money: I was told this was around $90 retail which is too high in my opinion – I’d like to see it a bit closer to $50.

Mortlach 16 (Signatory Vintage K&L Selection Cask #1) Review

This is a Signatory Vintage Mortlach 16 selected by K&L Wines. It was distilled in 1998, finished in an Oloroso Sherry for 33 months, and bottled in 2014 at 55.8% ABV.

Nose: Crips, clean sherry up front with damp oak, a little smoke, and barley coming through clearly. Slightly musty note overall, but love the distinct sherry/malt side by side.

Palate: Sherry turns subtler with a myriad of spices. Oak presents older here with a citrusy note.

Finish: Bold finish with a lot of peppered malt, sherry, and oak pulling back a bit.

Rating: 85/100 – enjoyable but fairly plain all around. The sherry influence is there enough to make it interesting, but seemed to fall a bit short.

Value for the money: This was $99 at K&L when it was released, and I’d say it would fit more comfortably in the $70 range.