Here’s a roundup of bourbon news you can use this week. Is it Friday yet? 

Old Forester chooses its Birthday Bourbon

It’s only June and Old Forester already is teasing us with details of this year’s Birthday Bourbon, which won’t be released until Sept. 2. But because anticipation is high on this one, it’s never too soon to start salivating.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon
Happy Birthday!

The 2019 Birthday Bourbon will be 11 years old and bottled at 105 proof, the highest proof to date in the 19-year history of the product. The full allotment represents one day’s production of Old Forester, according to the news release.

“Birthday Bourbon selections have ranged from 9- to 14-years-old since the expression was first launched in 2002,” said Jackie Zykan, Old Forester Master Taster, in the release. “When selecting the barrels for this year, we found something truly exceptional in this lot and we’re proud to call it our 2019 Birthday Bourbon.”

About 120 barrels were filled on May 15, 2008, but with evaporation year after year — called the angel’s share — roughly 2,200 (six-bottle) cases will be available for purchase nationwide if you’re lucky enough to find one. Because Old Forester heat cycles its barrel warehouses, even more of the precious juice is lost each year to those thirsty angels.

A bottle will retail for $99.99, and Zykan describes the taste rich in oak as well as blackcurrant, caramel cake and hints of floral notes.

Woodford Reserve Distillery opens new Welcome Center

new Woodford Reserve Welcome Center
The new Woodford Reserve Welcome Center is now open. | Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

Last year, more than 150,000 visitors from near and far made their way to the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Ky. In an effort to better accommodate them and also expand its space, the distillery constructed a brand new Welcome Center, which opened Wednesday morning to much fanfare.

It marks the first major expansion of the Woodford tourism experience since the distillery opened in 1996.

The building is a modern take on a traditional Kentucky farmhouse and includes a main hall with seating, a ticketing area, restrooms, a bar and outdoor entertaining spaces. Plus, most of the artwork on the walls is by Kentucky artists depicting our quaint countryside and landscape.

Near the new Welcome Center is the Visitor’s Center, which will continue to house the distillery’s gift shop, cocktail bar and Glenn’s Creek Cafe, led by Chef-in-Residence Ouita Michel.

Basil Hayden’s releases a rum-finished whiskey for the summer

bottle of Basil Hayden's
Can’t wait to taste!

Some whiskey purists oppose finishing the final product in anything, let alone used rum barrels. But others, including this writer, don’t mind a little experimentation every now and again.

Basil Hayden’s is off to the Caribbean for the summer, offering up a limited edition expression that blends two rye whiskeys and finishes them in used Black Strap Rum barrels. The product is a blend of 8-year-old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey and 4-year-old Canadian Rye Whisky and is bottled at a low 80 proof — as it’s meant to be sipped on and savored.

“With the release of Caribbean Reserve Rye, we wanted to give our fans a fun whiskey expression that you can bring out and share during warmer weather occasions, whether that’s mixing it up at an outdoor barbecue or gifting it for a housewarming celebration,” said Rob Mason, vice president of marketing at Beam Suntory, in a news release.

“As a brand that has always broken traditional whiskey expectations, we’re excited to help our fans discover new, interesting ways to enjoy the rye category, and Caribbean Reserve Rye does just that,” he added.

Although we haven’t tried the whiskey yet, we’re excited to see how the rye mingles with the touch of dark rum. We also dig the sleek color choice of navy blue on the bottle’s label, and the $44.99 price point isn’t too bad, so we’ll probably buy this one before tasting.

BBCo releases Discovery Series No. 1 in time for National Bourbon Day, June 14

Bottle of Discovery Bourbon
Welcome!

Just in time for National Bourbon Day on Friday, June 14, Bardstown Bourbon Co. is releasing its Discovery Series No. 1, a blend of four Kentucky bourbons that range in age between 5 and 13 years old.

Led by a team of BBCo’s experts in distilling, mixology and cooking, the final product was chosen after the crew blind tasted more than 30 blends. Must have been a tough job.

“With Discovery Series #1, we’ve produced a blend that can rival any product on the market,” said BBCo Master Distiller Steve Nally in a  news release. “The final result is truly greater than the sum of its parts. We’ve taken four great Kentucky bourbons and crafted them into one spectacular bottle.”

According to the tasting notes, the bourbon exhibits deep tobacco and leather notes from the older barrels, and baking spices and bright fruit from the younger ones.

Discovery Series No. 1, which is bottled at 121 proof, will be somewhat hard to find, but you can try making a trip to the distillery to see if you can nab one for the suggested retail price of $129.99. And don’t forget, you can grab lunch or dinner at the in-house restaurant, Bottle & Bond, which is quite affordable.

Weller 12 in the wild

Unicorn!

Buffalo Trace has released another batch of Weller 12 recently, so you should begin to see it on bar shelves throughout the city.

Now, if you’re hoping to catch one on a liquor store shelf, that’s going to be more difficult, as the allocated release tends to disappear as soon as it’s delivered.

The wheated bourbon’s popularity continues to rise year after year, as it is the same mash bill as the more elusive Pappy Van Winkle products. The three main Weller bourbons — Special Reserve, Antique and 12 — once could be found collecting dust on shelves all over the country, but those days are long gone.

If you want to see what all the fuss is about but don’t want to go unicorn hunting, just stop by your favorite bourbon bar or neighborhood hangout and purchase a pour. We enjoyed one last weekend at Big Bar. It’s not something most can afford as a daily sipper, but for special occasions, it’s not a bad choice.

Sara Havens
Sara Havens is the Culture Editor at Insider Louisville, known around town as the Bar Belle (barbelleblog.com). She's a former editor of LEO Weekly and has written for Playboy and The Alcohol Professor. Havens is the author of two books: "The Bar Belle" and "The Bar Belle Vol. 2."