By Father John Rayls
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Bourbon Whisky (their spelling) is a celebration of the long and storied history of the Brown-Forman Distillery. More specifically, it’s a celebration of the distillery’s work during Prohibition. You read that correctly. Brown-Forman continued their distillation for all 13 years of Prohibition. They were one of six organizations granted permits (ten were allotted) to continue distilling spirits for medicinal purposes during Prohibition. The Volstead act of 1920 permitted this. Current Master Distiller Chris Morris estimates the recipe of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley and 115 proof to be approximately what was being bottled during those long 13 years. This would have been more likely at the beginning of this period rather than the end due to the maximum limit during this time period of 100 proof set by the US government. It is a no age statement bourbon. This is the third release in the Whiskey Row Series which is a marker for Louisville’s famous Whiskey Row in the early years of the bourbon industry development. Old Forester is currently the longest running bourbon on the market today at approximately 146 years. It is rumored that Old Forester was used in the first Old Fashion developed in Louisville.
The bottle is very old-school with its label. It gives you a very historic image and feeling sitting on your shelf. The bourbon is a beautiful brown color with copper highlights. It looks dark and inviting. The legs are thin and yet reluctant. They are there, but it requires patience. The nose is a nice balance of slight aggressiveness with little or no alcohol burn. The first aroma is of very light new leather with some solid oakiness. There is a solid nose of caramel and a light undercurrent of dried fruit. The nose is a very pleasant experience.
This is an easy drinking whiskey in spite of the stout 115 proof. It doesn’t punch you in the face, but provide a very balanced taste profile. There is an initial light to medium mouthfeel. All most all of the activity takes place at mid-mouth. It is loaded with caramel, leather and oak with much of the action activating the roof of the mouth. There is some interesting spice that eventually kicks in. It moves from sweetness to spiciness fairly quickly. The spice is more of a peppery feel rather than cinnamon. Don’t mistake this for a complex whiskey. I sampled it neat and I believe most bourbon drinkers could do the same. It’s not an explosion of various flavors, but a very solid bourbon that’s worthy of your time and money. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s Prohibition style. However, it’s very enjoyable and simply interesting.
This wouldn’t be an every day bourbon for me. I would use it for friends that really enjoy bourbon or for whiskey tastings. It retails for $59.95 at various local retail stores. I had to special order this one, but it’s worth the wait. The cost would keep me from enjoying it on a regular basis. This is an interesting bourbon that will be an occasional experience for me and my bourbon drinking friends for expanding the enjoyment boundaries.