Both the crown jewel and establishing brand of the mighty Brown-Forman Corporation, Old Forester was created in 1870 by pharmaceutical salesman George Garvin Brown. The Old Forester brand was Brown’s answer to a medicinal whiskey market that was hampered in its day by inconsistent and poor quality whiskey being sold to unsuspecting customers. To tackle this, Brown set up the J.T.S. Brown and Bro. firm in Louisville and began sourcing high-quality bourbon directly from three different distilleries. These were blended for quality and consistency and marketed exclusively towards the medicinal whiskey trade. Brown also took advantage of the advances in glass bottle mass production in order to offer an exclusively bottled-only bourbon, making him the first to commercially bottle his bourbon. To distinguish his bourbon further, every bottle of Old Forrester bourbon was bottled, sealed, and carried Brown’s personal promise of its quality as well as his signature to authenticate it as such.
Originally spelled with two r’s, the brand name came from Dr. William Forrester, a leading Civil War physician and customer of George Garvin Brown when he was working as a pharmaceutical salesman in Louisville. Forrester allowed the use of his name to further validate Brown’s claim of the high quality of his medicinal whiskey with the name only changing to its modern spelling after Dr. Forrester retired and the association with his name was deemed unnecessary by Brown.
When Prohibition hit in 1920 Brown’s strict adherence to quality and his already-existing presence in the medicinal whiskey market resulted in Old Forester being granted one of just ten government licenses to bottle Bourbon for medicinal purposes during Prohibition. In fact since 1870 Old Forester has remained the only bourbon continuously distilled, available to buy, and marketed by the founding family before, during, and after Prohibition. It is officially the longest running Bourbon on the market today (approximately 147 years as of 2018).
In modern times Old Forester has transitioned from being a blend of sourced bourbon to instead being a blend of whiskies produced at the Brown-Forman distillery in Shively, KY, under Master Distiller Chris Morris and blended by Master Blender Jackie Zykan. As well as their flagship 86 proof Old Forester, the distillery also produces Old Forester Signature 100 proof, Old Forester rye whiskey, Old Forester Birthday bourbon, their very successful Whiskey Row series, President’s Choice, and Old Forester Statesman.
Released to coincide with the 2017 action spy comedy film Kingsman: The Golden Circle, Old Forester Statesman is named after the fictional distillery used in the film as a front for a US-based spy organisation. A now-permanent addition to the Old Forester family following its success, the bourbon features Old Forester’s standard bourbon recipe blended from barrels pulled from the warmest parts of the Brown Forman rickhouses by Master Blender Jackie Zykan and bottled at a higher proof than the standard offering. It comes in the same style bottle that the Whiskey Row series is bottled in and looks the part of a bourbon produced by an undercover spy organisation – bad ass!
Name: Old Forester Statesman
Age: NAS blend of 4-6 y.o. bourbon
Type: Kentucky straight bourbon
Mashbill: 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley
Producer: Brown-Forman Corporation
Nose: The nose opens with black cherries, deep caramel, faint floral banana, earthy baking spices mixed with warm leather, peppery oak, and smoky char.
Palate: The palate opens viscous, buttery, and sweet with brown sugar and floral vanilla before a growing wave of toasted oak, leather and slightly bitter baking spices make their presence known. It’s leathery, peppery, and there’s a dash of citrus riding the back of the wave. As the wave passes it leaves deep vanilla, buttery caramel, a touch of cherry, and warm oak notes as it’s chewed.
Finish: The finish opens with a touch of vegetal notes before giving warm baking spices, leathery oak tannins, and ending on a long-lasting dark chocolate and charred oak aftertaste.
Oh man that’s good! No wonder there’s so much love for this out there! Throughout drinking this you get all those classic Old Forester notes but now they’re jumping from the glass with added zeal, strengthened by a hefty dose of added baking spices, leather, and toasted oak influence. This really tastes like a bourbon that has squeezed more oak-driven notes from the barrel with all those spice and leather notes. Its amazing how picking barrels from only the hot spots in warehouses has really given this bourbon a drastic flavour boost. The added 9 proof points (4.5% abv) have also made a big difference in terms of the intensity of the flavours and how they’re carried on the palate. Whereas the 86 proof release can be enjoyed both in cocktails and neat this release really steps it up and almost demands to be sipped neat.
I can say with confidence that I’m definitely not the only one that is delighted that Old Forester have decided to make this release a permanent addition to their core range. It makes a fantastic addition and really demonstrates what can be found in the hot spots of warehouses. It also demonstrates the dream team that Master Blender Jackie Zykan and Master Distiller Chris Morris make when it comes to creating beautiful blends like this.
Try or Buy?
This is the Old Forester bourbon equivalent of an ass-kicking-world-saving-secret agent and is absolutely worth every penny. If you already like Old Forester you’re going to love this. Buy, buy, buy!