The 22nd edition of Old Forester’s classic Birthday Bourbon is upon us. This year marked a shift in the way Birthday Bourbon is sold. Rather than being sold at the distillery, it was offered via a lottery that was held during the last week of August. I also had to hunt high and low to figure out exactly what was inside this year’s release. All I could discern — and not directly from OldFo — was that it was an 11 year old bourbon (though Birthday Bourbon is normally bottled at 12 years old). If you snagged one at the lottery, well, now you know what you’re drinking.
I received a small sample to taste. Some thoughts follow.
First off, this edition feels flatter and more doughy than many Birthday Bourbon releases, its nose a very quiet 48% abv. Nutty notes are immediate, but show more walnut than peanut, with lots of nougat and brown butter underneath. At the same time, the whiskey isn’t really sweet. Savory, aromatic overtones of wood pulp and fresh bread aren’t off-putting, but they never really draw you in the way you expect a well-toned barrel selection like Birthday Bourbon to do.
The palate diverges minimally. It’s soft and understated, heavy on its cereal and barrel char backbone, though notes of cinnamon and ground ginger become more evident with time in glass. A peppery quality emerges with further time, though there’s a long wait for its arrival, the finish retreating to a character of undercooked gingerbread — almost fruitcake-like. A pinch of sawdust late in the game further distracts the drinker.
I’ve now reviewed more than a dozen Birthday Bourbon releases dating back to 2009. While it’s never been my absolute favorite fall whiskey release, there have been some lovely, bright spots in the mix — and to be sure, 2022’s release is perfectly drinkable as it stands. That said, 2022 might be my least favorite to date, alongside the equally muddy 2017 offering. It’s not something I’d recommend you shell out $1000+ for on the secondary market, that’s for sure.