Whiskey Review: Old Forester 2020 Birthday Bourbon

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Old Forester (Brown-Forman). This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

A lot of annual milestones have been missed in 2020. Wimbledon. Coachella. South by Southwest. But take heart, dependable Old Forester is here with their 2020 Birthday Bourbon.

The release is extra-special this year, too, as it marks the 150th year of the company. George Garvin Brown founded Old Forester in 1870, and it’s his September 2nd birthday the bourbon honors every year. This is the 20th special edition.

Brown was a pharmaceutical salesman and, as such, was concerned with the uniformity of his medicinal tonic, whiskey. So he purchased from three different distilleries and batched them together. He sealed the liquid in glass bottles and signed each one, adding to the legitimacy and earning fame for being the first to bottle bourbon.

When the Bottled-in-Bond Act was passed in 1897, and BIB whiskeys were required to come from one distillery, Brown soon purchased one of his three suppliers. That distillery managed to retain rights to medicinal production through Prohibition, and so continues the Old Forester line to this day. 

The 2020 Birthday Bourbon in its entirety is made up of 95 barrels, which represents one day’s production of Old Forester. Though that means a pre-proofing total of over 5,000 gallons, and so over 25,000 750mL bottles, there is still much crying and gnashing of teeth over the availability of this bourbon. Take one look at Old Forester’s Instagram feed near the release date and you’ll see screen after screen of comments, mostly about just how un-findable any Birthday Bourbon is. Some commenters suggest owning a liquor store as the best bet to wrangle a bottle.

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Now that I know how lucky I am to score a dram, we should get to tasting before 2020 throws another curve ball.

2020 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

2020 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (image via Brown-Forman)

Tasting Notes: Old Forester 2020 Birthday Bourbon

Vital Stats: Old Forester 2020 Birthday Bourbon is 98 proof, made from 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley and aged 10 years. Suggested retail price is $129.99 and distribution is nationwide, but actually laying hands on a bottle is another matter.

Appearance: This liquid is a very clear, rich amber with a hint of bronze. It beads and forms excessively slow tears.

Nose: Powerful! Banana peel leaps out of the glass, followed by brown-sugar sweetness. Dark cherry comes on later, with a hum of latex.

Palate: On the palate, this Birthday Bourbon is smooth and sweet – velvety; white flowers on the attack and the glassy crust of crème brûlée. Mid palate finds cola, while the finish is long and tinged with black pepper and allspice.

The Takeaway


Old Forester 2020 Birthday Bourbon is worth some hype, a satisfying and tasty bourbon. Should the stars smile upon you and bless your hands with a bottle, accept it graciously and share with your favorite people.

User Rating 2.89 (53 votes)