Old Forester’s anniversary bourbon will go on sale in a national competition for the first time ever

For bourbon lovers, speculators and collectors, September 2n/a is a date circled on the calendar. This is when Old Forester launches its annual limited Birthday Bourbon release to the public, celebrating the birthday of founder George Garvin Brown. Only available at a select number of outlets across the country, the bottle is quickly disappearing. For most drinkers, the only way to get one was to travel to Louisville, Kentucky, and visit the distillery on the release date to purchase one of the limited numbers sold over the counter.

This led to a carnival-like atmosphere, with long lines forming on the streets of downtown Louisville hours before the distillery opened. What was for sale quickly sold out well before sunset.

While Old Forester welcomed this enthusiasm, they realized most of their fans were left out. So, for the first time since the launch of Birthday Bourbon in 2002, they will not be selling bottles at their Whiskey Row distillery. Instead, they’re running a nationwide raffle that will give everyone an equal chance to win one of their $149.99 bottles.

The popularity of limited edition and limited edition bottles is a phenomenon that has spread across the whiskey landscape in recent years. Most distillers along Kentucky’s famed Bourbon Trail and across the country all offer bottles only available on-site or in small retail offerings. Apart from rewarding their loyal customers with something rare, they also create buzz around a brand and increase their online presence.

Old Forester is no stranger to this trend. Besides the aforementioned Birthday Bourbon, one of the first limited batch bottles in the country, the company offers a few others. Their Presidents Choice and 117 series are only available a few times a year at select Kentucky outlets, the distillery, and a few are sold online.

“In 2002, when we launched Birthday Bourbon, we literally couldn’t give away this product. The bourbon craze hadn’t hit and people weren’t sure what to make of a unique product,” says Chris Poynter, PR and partnerships manager at Brown-Forman.
for Woodford and Old Forester. “Now people look forward to this release every year and go after it. Recognizing this, we wanted something special for visitors during the year, so we added a few products that have just been sold here. Our latest, the 117 series, allows us to launch new products and test the market while helping to develop the brand.”

The decision not to offer their Birthday Bourbon on-site was just the latest move by the brand to crack down on dealers gobbling up the rare bottles of Old Forester that often show up in their tasting room. Much like the effect dealers/scalpers can have on the price of concert tickets, gobbling them all up and then causing prices to skyrocket, whiskey has the same problem. Bottles of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Presidents Choice, and 117 Series sold online can range in price from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

“There are people here in Kentucky who make a living by going to the various distilleries and buying allocated and special bourbons and reselling them,” Poynter explains. “This is something that we cannot control and we do not encourage it, so we have instituted a policy that only one limited release bottle per month can be purchased by someone locally.”

Launching a nationwide raffle giving lucky winners the chance to buy a bottle of Birthday Bourbon, Old Forester will be giving away the boozy equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket. From August 24-31, consumers can register online at Oldforester.com. Winners will be notified by email on September 2. They will need to come to the distillery to purchase their bottle in person, filled with liquid hand-selected by Master Distiller Chris Morris. While this change may upset some loyal hometown fans, it does level the playing field for all of their drinkers.

“Birthday Bourbon holds a special place among Old Forester’s limited editions, celebrating the heritage of the Brown family,” says Morris. “We’re thrilled to offer bourbon lovers across the country the opportunity to get their hands on this beloved bourbon.”

About the author