A four-course dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, expertly paired with bourbons from one of our favorite brands—including the ultra-rare Old Forester Birthday Bourbon? Hell, yes. The following are notes from our regular Whiskey Wednesday Club meeting on a Tuesday to enjoy this decadent treat. As much as we love whiskey, it’s harder to pair with food than wine or beer so it was great seeing a chef show us how it’s done.
1st Course: Old Forester 86 Proof + Prosciutto with Mustard Frills and Pumpkin Seed Romesco
The medium honey-colored base level bourbon from Old Forester paired perfectly with this light and delicate salad topped with succulent pig. The pumpkin seed sauces blended expertly with the oily mouthfeel of the whiskey—with youthful tastes and hints of vanilla and mint, fading into a short finish.
2nd Course: Old Forester 1870 Original Batch + Shrimp Fried Rice
The bourbon presented hot with notes of caramel and butterscotch cutting through the umami-rich fried rice. While the food was excellent, and perfectly paired with this mellow and bright whiskey, the juice itself was our least favorite of the night.
3rd Course: Old Forester 1897 Bottled-In-Bond + Braised Bacon with Black Eyed Pea Grits and Jus
If anybody ever asks me what pairs well with bourbon, I always answer pork. The richer the better, because your high proof sauce will burn a hole to the flavor. This paring made the point perfectly clear, a tender chunk of pork belly and 100 Proof bourbon go together like peanut butter and jelly. The grits worked wonders mopping up the juices. As for the bourbon itself, we appreciated the full-bodied notes of leather, smoke, dark citrus, and dried fruits like dates and raisons.
4th Course: Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style + Apple Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Cider Caramel
What can say about heaven? You can read how much we love the OF 1920 in our earlier review. Now we know it also makes the ultimate after dinner drink to go with apple pie a la mode. The caramel, honey, spice and orange jest amplified the similar flavors on the plate. A little leather, bitter chocolate, oak, and pecans lifted it off the table and sent it into orbit.
Old Forester Statesmen
Okay, admittedly we were a little sauced up now after four courses with four different bourbons, but who could resist a little lagniappe of special release Statesmen (you can read our earlier full review here). Our table notes lauded it for a bold heat, with a chewy, thin, grassy flavor. There was no food here, just an intermezzo between desserts and more bourbon.
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2017
For the Grand Finale our hostess brought out healthy pours of this sought after limited edition release, paired with a whimsical jar of actual birthday cake. Since our state was only allocated 40 bottles this year, it could be our only chance to taste it. I’d hoped to move this to the front of the meal, for the sake of more sober notes. But that didn’t happen, so after six previous tastings our findings here give it points for being strong, icy (?), big, and light(?). (Maybe our taste buds were burned out? Maybe we were just really happy and buzzed?) That being said it still got the second highest rating next to our favorite 1920.