maggie and old forester

Who needs a Saint Bernard?

Snow in bourbon-drinking country is not usually a common occurrence but sometimes it happens and when it does, well what more could you ask for? I call our snows “boutique” snows, since it’s usually great big puffy-flake snow that makes for great pictures and it’s all gone in the next day or two. I can send the pics to friends up north and say “see, we have snow, too” while never acknowledging the fact that I don’t own a snow shovel, or a snow blower, or even decent parka.

(I was going to mention “rubbers,” Midwestern vernacular meaning overshoes or galoshes, but the very fact that I grew up being told to “be sure to put on your rubbers” as I headed out the door is still disconcerting…)

This year we’re getting more snow than we’re used to, but each instance is a “let it snow” moment providing the perfect excuse to stay indoors, stare out the window and toast the season. Of course you can toast any season, and I believe you should, but right now this is the one to focus on.

This month I got us some Old Forester bourbon, which is a bit of conundrum in the bourbon world, as near as I can tell. From a purely consumer standpoint Old Forester resides in the netherworld between your everyday bourbons and your special occasions bourbons.

If your friends aren’t the sort that worry about the hit they’ll take from the estate tax, then you can pull out some Old Forester and everyone will appreciate your slightly eclectic taste.

On the other hand, if your doctor is recommending rotator cuff surgery for the shoulder pain you feel from constantly reaching for those top-shelf bottles, then it seems to be de rigueur to suggest that Old Forester is somehow unworthy of serious consideration.

To quote, as I usually do, the estimable F. Paul Pacult: [from F. Paul Pacult’s Whiskey Review, iWhiskey iPhone app]

“… The palate entry is hard, brittle, unwelcoming, … at midpalate there’s a slight reflection of the grainy aroma, but that’s washed away in the torrent of oaky resin; ends up bitter and biting. I didn’t care for this uneven, Jekyll and Hyde of a bourbon. One minute it’s sweet, inviting, and succulent in the nose; the next minute it’s scraping the skin off your tongue and upper palate.”

Sheesh, what an attitude! A couple of ice cubes, a splash of water and a devastating Dear John letter and F. Paul would be throwing it down with a vengeance I say.

Then there’s the frequently-suggested-on-the-internets but unverified claim that Woodford Reserve, which I wrote about a while back, is just the best of each Old Forester batch relabeled and greatly revalued. I want to believe Woodford Reserve when they say this is not true, but until they can produce an actual, legitimate birth certificate from the state of Hawaii, I’m skeptical. I guess it’s a conspiracy with legs given that Old Forester is made by Brown-Forman, which also bottles Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniels among its products.

You gotta love this guy’s tenacity in searching for the truth:

Old Forester does have history on its side, at least according to Charles Cowdery:

“Old Forester was born in 1870. In those days, distilleries and distributors sold whiskey in barrels to bars and groceries. Many less than scrupulous merchants watered the whiskey or ‘extended’ it with un-aged spirits and other, sometimes toxic, substances.

“Among those who complained about this practice were physicians, who often prescribed whiskey as a tonic and anesthetic. George Brown, who previously worked for a wholesale drug company, knew about this complaint and got the idea of selling whiskey only in sealed bottles, so a buyer could trust the contents.”

Given that information I must suggest that Old Forester was the first “medicinal purposes” whiskey that a doctor could really trust. You know where I’m going with that…

So anyway, Tweets and I did a blind taste test using the remains of the previously mentioned Woodford Reserve and our new bottle of Old Forester. Old Forester won. We still like Woodford Reserve, but on our binary scale of zero-to-one with one being good and zero being void of all goodness and undeserving to exist in this universe, we give Old Forester a one.

P.S. – “Fried peanut and banana sandwich with bourbon and vanilla” on the breakfast menu at Breslin in NYC. I might have to move back.

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