During my just completed visit to Kentucky, I made it a point to visit the “new” Old Forester Distilling Company. There was a lot of buzz about the experience since it opened on June 15 of this year, so we scheduled a tour for our first day in Louisville.
Old Forester is a brand aligned with bourbon history. It is the first bourbon to be marketed in glass bottles to guaranty quality. In 1897, Old Forester created 100 proof bottles to comply with the U.S. Bottled in Bond Act. When Prohibition arrived, Brown Forman, the parent company of Old Forester applies and receives a medicinal permit to distill whiskey for medicinal purposes. Old Forester is the only bourbon distilled and sold by the founders before, during, and after prohibition.
That little bit of history will bring us right back to a tour in their new Louisville Kentucky facility. We were fortunate as we have been many times before that our tour guide Sarah was enthusiastic, friendly, and knowledgeable. Kentucky distilleries continue to impress me with their ability to recruit and train outstanding ambassadors.
The facility was designed to tell the complete story of Old Forester and the history of bourbon. Two things on the tour stood out to me. First is a limestone wall that is a dramatic architectural element that also displays the core reason that Kentucky water is so pure. The second item is the cooperage display. Not only do you get an in-depth description of barrel construction but you also experience first hand the charring of a barrel.
I have mentioned previously that to tour a cooperage such as Kentucky Cooperage in Lebanon, Kentucky is an outstanding experience for anyone interested in whiskey heritage and the importance of barrels in the aging process. The Old Forester tour provides a visual story to understand this process.
The tour shows you history, examines the barreling process, allows you to see a bottling line in action, and ends with a tasting. It also allows you to walk through and experience barrel storage onsite and up close. My personal experience tells me that this facility and this tour is designed to provide you a brief understanding of the elements of producing bourbon.
There are additional touches that make this visit worthwhile. The dramatic copper column still that sits at the top of a stairway is as much art as a functional still. Providing lockers for your personal belongings while you visit is a great touch — the onsite George’s Bar where you can relax and experience a cocktail even if you do not have time to tour. However, I strongly suggest you do.
Finally, the Old Forester Distillery has a well-appointed gift shop where you can purchase branded merchandise as well as a variety of Old Forester Bourbons. The ability to have your bottle engraved onsite while you wait is a very nice touch and would make a great gift for anyone who appreciates good bourbon.
Visit Louisville and take the time to take the tour at Old Forester Distilling Company. You will get one of the complete bourbon explanations I have ever experienced. That coupled with a charming and knowledgeable tour guide like Sarah will leave you with a lasting positive impression of time well spent.