By: Scott Ritenbaugh
In 1870, George Garvin Brown recognized that bottling bourbon a consistent package gave his product legitimacy, discouraged tampering, and boasted safety to consumers. Old Forester, named for Union Army Surgeon, Dr. William Forrester, was the first bourbon to be exclusively sold by the bottle. Originally, the product name was spelled “Old Forrester”, with a double “r”. Over time it was renamed Old Forester to give the brand it’s own unique identity. Before Old Forester, bourbon was generally sold out of the barrel. People would bring a jug to a saloon or general store and buy it right out of the barrel. The bourbon could have been sold at barrel proof or could have been watered down or cut with any manner of things, such as turpentine and other caustic chemicals. Bourbon was wildly inconsistent due to production variances and being tampered with during transportation or in the place that sold it.
First launched in 2014, the Whiskey Row Series pays homage to several key events in the history of Old Forester.
Old Forester 1870 Original Batch echoes George Garvin Brown’s original 1870 batching process. Back then, Brown batched barrels obtained from three distilleries to create a consistent flavor profile. To emulate that process today, they also select barrels from three warehouses, each barrel originating from a different day of production, with a different entry proof and a different age profile.
Old Forester 1897 Bottled in Bond honors the U.S. Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. To be labeled as Bottled in Bond, whisky must be the product of one distillation season, one distiller and from one distillery. The concept behind the Act – the idea of “sealed-in quality” – was something that Old Forester – America’s First Bottled Bourbon – introduced in 1870.
Old Forester 1910 Old Fine Whisky – In October 1910, a fire caused the bottling line to be shut down for an indefinite period of time. At the same time, there was a vat of mature whisky waiting to be bottled. Rather than letting the product go to waste, this whisky was instead stored in new, charred oak containers to rest until the line could be repaired.” This double barreling was the first such documented of its kind and led to it gaining the name Old Fine Whisky.
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style celebrates the brand’s continued distillation during Prohibition. For 13 years, the production, transport and sale of alcohol was strictly prohibited. However, Old Forester was granted a permit to continue distilling on Louisville’s Whiskey Row. The 115 proof expression represents a barrel sample that company president Owsley Brown I would have batched at the beginning of Prohibition.