On Whiskey: Breaking and Entering from St. George and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon


birthday bourbon

To describe what it is like drinking a slug of nearly 100 Proof bourbon whiskey at nine in the morning can only be described as foolhardy.

You know why I waited until noon? (It’s not like me.) The first four hours of the day were spent in the social media landscape. I cannot interact with both Twitter and Facebook when I’m doing a less than serious whiskey tasting.

Food is always needed when drinking spirits that approach 100 Proof. Even if I am a professional, it’s always good to put something solid in the belly before drinking whiskey. It’s just dangerous to drink anything on an empty stomach.

Today I shaved the last of the Vermont garlic thinly, and I boiled up the last of the torn pasta ribbons (dried of course) from my Italy trip in September.  The smell of brown butter, great olive oil and garlic is most beguiling. The whole house was filled with the aromatics of Italy. In the great room, two bottles of whiskey called out to me. One was Breaking & Entering Bourbon from St. George in Alameda California. The other was the 12-year-old Birthday Bourbon from Old Forester (which I reviewed on OKRA in the past).

I have a personal interest in both bottles. My interest in Old Forester exists because I was received my grandfather’s historic bourbon collection when my he died. Several of the bottles are Old Forester, all from the 1950s. As I start drinking them down to their bottoms, this liquid history disappearing.

I have an interest in St. George Spirits because, I helped present on the topic of Milk Punch Tales of the Cocktail 2013 in New Orleans. St. George Spirits was gracious enough to pay for the milk punch tasting room held at the Hotel Monteleone during Tales. Thank you.

St. George scans the aging Rickhouses in Kentucky seeking out barrels of bourbon that they can (steal) and blend in California to their own exacting requirements. The end result is gorgeous in the mouth just touched by wildflower honey and sweet corn pudding.

My tasting notes are as follows:

– Sweet brown butter gives way to sea salt dusted French Caramels.  This is lightly toasted bourbon whiskey is waiting to grace your favorite rocks glass. I wouldn’t put too much in to it; my Milk Punch was on the high side of a complete cover-up, but the flavor was there. I used to get an ice cream bar from Good Humor when I was young. It was named Toasted Coconut. A slurp of this whiskey is like eating a toasted coconut ice cream bar- melted of course. Then the fun really begins. There is ingenuity in the mix according to the label and I tend to agree about that. Maybe the damp cool of San Francisco Bay has something to do with it. Is the outward terroir like Scotland instead of the brooding heat of Kentucky? St. George Breaking & Entering is luscious and captivating bourbon whiskey. I dig it.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon comes packaged in a glass bottle that resembles a pot still. Low to the tabletop and squat to the eye, the bottle is covered in a very regal purple and gold ribbon. This is a cork finish, just like the Breaking & Entering Bourbon. I like the size of the cork. It’s quite massive in your hand. But bottles and corks fine bourbon does not make. I will take note of the prominent statement: Aged 12 Years on the front/top of the bottle. I’d like to say that the St. George Breaking & Entering makes no such claim to the age of their bourbon. That’s okay, I’ve tasted two year old Indian “Scotch” Whisky that is light years more concentrated and lush than their “Scotch” counterparts!

The Birthday Bourbon from Old Forester tastes completely different from the Old Forester that I have from the 1950s. I’m sure the grains are different and the time in the bottle did a bit of good, not that any aging takes place; the whiskey just tends to soften out a bit over 60 years. When a whiskey is bottled in bond, the high proof level tends to preserve the concentrated flavors.

The Birthday Bourbon is tantalizing stuff! It has a nose of cedar and toasty charred oak.There is some vanilla in there along with the unmistakable aroma of molten pine sap dipped white chocolate nibs. I think it is perfumed and tropical against my lips as if I was biting into a ripe mango slice. Don’t forget the heat!  There is 98 Proof to think about running around your brain.

Drink plenty of water when imbibing bourbon of this power and grip!

The Birthday Bourbon may be really hard to find but I recommend that you start searching now. Fortify yourself for your search by buying the much easier to attain Breaking & Entering Bourbon from St. George.

As always with fine Craft Spirits, when you buy them at your local shop you are sending a strong message to the mega liquor companies. By buying specialty projects like the Birthday Bourbon or the Breaking & Entering, you are helping perpetuate Craft in America. I think this métier is a classic example of doing with the best ingredients available what others cannot do as well.

Should you find as I did that a bit of bourbon is a bit too much, may I suggest a slurp or more of Fernet Branca? It really is a magical tonic.

Cheers!  wb


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