William M. Dowd photoLOUISVILLE, KY — Master distiller Chris Morris has been releasing Old Forester’s vintage-dated Birthday Bourbons each September since 2002. For those anxious about this year’s edition, be patient.
Chris told me during a special tasting event here this week (see entry above) that the 2008 version will be delayed until probably late fall. Right now, marketing and production attention is being lavished on the introduction of a one-time-only Old Forester Repeal Bourbon that is in the pipeline for early November release as part of the festivities marking the 75th anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal.
Old Forester (originally spelled Forrester, and named for a local Civil War hero) is the historic brand created by Brown-Forman, a company founded in 1870 by pharmaceuticals salesman George Garvin Brown.
Brown was the first to bottle bourbon, marketing a blend he made of whiskies from several distilleries as part of his plan to maintain an even quality product. Eventually, he launched his own distillery.
His company survived Prohibition when Owsley Brown, George’s son, obtained one of only 10 federal licenses to continue selling whiskey — for medicinal purposes.
Brown-Forman used its existing stock of bourbon to fill prescription orders, then in 1923 bought the Early Times brand and its bourbon inventory. By 1929, all supplies of pre-Prohibition whiskey were exhausted and the government allowed the specially licensed companies to make more whiskey — at a Louisville distillery operated by the federal government.
Thus, Brown-Forman is the only existing U.S. company in the spirits and wine business that has spanned pre-, during and post-Prohibition periods.
Just in case anyone might think the 162nd birthday of George Garvin Brown was not honored this month, it was. A special birthday cake was presented after the tasting event at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville to honor the man who created what went on to become the dominant company in Louisville economic history. (For a look at the Brown-Forman portfolio of brands, go here.) And, appropriately enough, the candles on the bourbon bottle-shaped cake were blown out by two recent retirees from the Old Forester distillery.
By the way, for a look at my tasting notes on last September’s birthday bourbon, just click here. And, for a sneak preview of the Repeal Bourbon, go here.
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