Like all of us, Old Fo keeps getting older, and this year it’s a 12-year-old bottling of 98 proof whiskey drawn from 62 barrels at the Old Forester rickhouse.
Can 2011’s Birthday Bourbon measure up to 2010’s masterpiece? Sadly, I’ve none of the ’10 left for comparative purposes, but the 2011 immediately strikes me as a bit too hot from the start. A splash of water makes the whiskey more palatable, exposing more nuance than first blush would indicate. On the nose: Caramel, vanilla, some floral notes, and lots of wood. In the mouth, there’s fruit — a bit of apple pie — and more dark char.
Finding the right balance between whiskey and water is tricky, but once you do, Old Fo ’11 is perfectly drinkable. What it’s not is a miracle, as ultimately the otherwise flavorful elements of this whiskey are drowned out by wood — a common problem with some Old Forester bottlings in general. In today’s wood-happy whiskey environment, that may be a welcome thing, but to this reviewer it’s a little sad to see the fruit, flowers, and sweetness get drowned out.