Taste Test: The 2022 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon Doesn’t Live Up to Its Hype

We review the highly coveted annual release.

Birthday Bourbon 2022 Old Forester

There are certain things that conjure up flashy images but in reality are just kind of blah: marshmallows, Ryan Gosling, AC/DC, Drake and lemon-flavored sparkling water are just a few that come to mind (let the hate mail commence). In other words, there are some aspects of life that are overrated and don’t live up to the hype that surrounds them. In the whiskey world there are many instances of this phenomenon, but could Old Forester’s latest Birthday Bourbon actually fall into that category?

Well, it’s complicated. Birthday Bourbon is an annual release from Kentucky distillery Old Forester that is hyped up to epic proportions before it becomes available every September 2, the birthday of founder George Garvin Brown. What makes this whiskey so special is that it’s made up of barrels carefully selected by master distiller Chris Morris and a tasting panel for their unique flavor profile and character. This year a sweepstakes was announced which fans could enter instead of having to stand in line at the distillery to nab a bottle, as so many wind up doing.

The 2022 edition of Birthday Bourbon was made up of 11-year-old barrels that represent one day’s production at Old Forester, so a vintage of sorts. And this is a very good bourbon with a lot of complexity—Werther’s Candy, cherry syrup and ripe apple on the nose; vanilla custard, orange, pineapple, milk chocolate, spiced pecan and some roasting coffee beans on the palate; and just a splash of heat and spice on the finish (the whiskey is 96 proof).

A quick look online shows that the 2022 release is difficult to find for sale as of yet, but previous years are going for at least a grand and often much more. And that’s fine if you have the means and will to hunt down a bottle, but the question remains—is it worth it? This year’s release is a delicious bourbon, and while it’s really difficult to say how it compares to previous releases without tasting them back-to-back, the reception has been generally good. But are we at a point where the concept of Birthday Bourbon outweighs the reality? Is it really worth chasing when a bottle of Colonel EH Taylor or Eagle Rare could be much easier to obtain? Does the hype over its scarcity inflate the reputation of an albeit excellent bourbon? This year, we think you have better bourbons to pursue.

Score: 90

What Our Score Means

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this 

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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