Origin: Louisville, KY (USA)
Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Ageing barrels: American Virgin Oak
Added coloring: Yes
Owner: Brown Forman
Average price: € 70.00
Official website: www.oldforester.com
This time I’m telling you about a particularly glamorous bottle.
Old Forester Statesman is in fact the “non-actor protagonist” of the 2017 movie Kingsman: The Golden Circle, the second installation of the film saga based on Mark Millar’s comic book. The bottle was then specially made to sponsor the film in a joint effort by the distillery and the production company.
I’m going to avoid talking about the film, as I personally found it to be a tremendous piece of cinema, and go on to talk about the distillery.
If you’re not familiar with it, Old Forester was founded in 1873 and to date is the oldest Bourbon distillery still in operation and the first to sell sealed bottles. Owned by the Brown-Forman mega-group (Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, BenRiach, etc.), Old Forester has a wide range that covers all possible shades of American whiskey in mass production. Their Kentucky Bourbon is made from a special blend of grains that contains more rye than usual: 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% barley malt.
This Statesman should also be no exception, although it’s not easy to find much information about it: it’s a NAS (assumed to be 4-6 years old), there are no notes on filtration and colouring, and the casks are probably a mix of new and old, more or less fire-cured, since it obviously follows the Kentucky Straight Whiskey specification. The peculiar thing is that the casks are supposed to come from the hottest areas of the distillery.
Could they be trying to speed up the ageing process by simulating a Kavalan-style tropical temperature? Who knows.
The colour is an intense amber, not too orange and with some golden reflections.
On the nose there’s the classic bomb of vanilla spices, with a hint of orange peel, a light smoky scent and lots of caramelised sugar. Several people mention the presence of dark chocolate notes, but I didn’t get them. Nothing earth-shattering, but at least everything is in order.
In the mouth it turns out to be much more lashing and sustained: I can taste quite a lot of alcohol (and given the percentage of 47.5%, it must be the fault of youth), then a strong hit of pepper that once subsided lets the orange peel and some creaminess return. Over everything, however, I feel the typical woody scent of distillates that are still young and loaded with lignin hovering a little too much. The persistence isn’t bad, but it insists too much on the same scents, especially the pepper which continues to tingle the tongue without adding anything else that was promised (on the official presentations you can obviously read about a vast series of aromas that in theory you should perceive in the sip), except for a slight smokiness which is quite pleasant.
It’s certainly noteworthy that the palate offers a very different and more characterful profile than the typical sweet and vanilla nose, but it didn’t win me over.
In short, as already mentioned, as far as I’m concerned it’s nothing earth-shattering, but not that my expectations were either, quite the contrary. In fact, if it weren’t for the high price, it wouldn’t be bad at all.
This is an excellent Bourbon, typical in its aromatic profile and almost surprising in its taste profile despite its young age. It’s certainly superior and quite distinct compared to many other bottles in the group. But it’s also inferior to, or exaggeratedly more expensive than, many other bottles on the market (such as the excellent Eagle Rare 10yo), so what are we to make of it? Well, unless you particularly loved the film (and I sincerely hope you didn’t, or at least I hope you don’t have the urge to tell me!), or are a huge fan of the distillery, I don’t think this Statesman should be on your shopping list. But if you like Kentucky Bourbon, here you will find an interesting variation on the theme that will probably give you a nice surprise and not a few satisfactions.