Old Forester Distillery (#12 of 19) is back on Whiskey Row in their old stomping ground. This full-featured distillery is very visual and the only distillery in Kentucky with it's own cooperage.
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About the Old Forester Distillery Tour
- Location: Louisville, KY
- Impression: A very visual tour and triumphant return of the distillery to Whiskey Row in Louisville.
- Website: Tour Information (Requires Age Verification)
- Cost: I paid $16 online for the tour.
- Samples: 3 Selections including Old Forester 86 Proof, Statesman, and Old Forester 100 Proof
- Perks: Had the opportunity to watch the cooperage process. No keepsakes.
- My Old Forester Distillery Instagram Photos
- During the renovations at Whiskey Row, many distilleries are moving downtown, so this will be a great centralized area for experiencing whiskey.
- If you plan your trip between Tuesday and Saturday, you'll get to see more of the process. It's my understanding that on Mondays and Tuesdays the distillery doesn't run, but they still give tours.
- The product was originally spelled Old Forrester, but the extra "r' was dropped due to a legal issue which they cover during the tour. I like when scars are not glossed over or ignored.
- Look for the old marketing ads. They have them on the wall. One makes a statement about "discriminating doctors" and a claim to longer life by drinking this whiskey. Okay then. Maybe marketing isn't quite THAT bad these days!
- You can see the beautiful and tall copper still as it sits in the gift shop. Another fantastic and unique still from Vendrome of Louisville.
- You can see them roll out the barrels at 12 noon Tuesday through Saturday and bang the drum. The barrels drop from an elevator that is visible from the front of the distillery and the team rolls them out to a flatbed truck which apparently drives the whiskey around town.
- This is the only major distillery with an on-site cooperage. No guarantee, but you might get to see a barrel getting fired or shaped.
See a Barrel Being Fired at the Distillery
Side Tracked: Whiskey and Prohibition
The time between 1920 and 1933 was a dark time for bourbon producers. The 18th Amendment basically took away the rights of American's to enjoy alcohol and stopped producers dead in their tracks. Many fought it, including George G. Brown of Old Forester, who wrote a book called "The Holy Bible Repudiates 'Prohibition.'" The book obviously had no effect, but is an interesting relic of the times. Whiskey was available in rations of pints for medicinal purposes, although you'd have to be pretty rich to keep up the habit. It is said the pint would probably set you back the equivalent of $400 in today's money.
Where did this medicinal alcohol come from? There were six distilleries that were licensed to continue operations for that purpose. One was Brown-Forman (so that book may have had some effect in keeping the business afloat), others included Frankfort Distillery (now Four Roses), American Medicinal Spirits (which was later absorbed by Jim Beam), Stitzel Distillery, and three others that have been absorbed by other companies. Until 1929, none of these distilleries were allowed to create new product.
In the midst of the Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed for the repeal of the 18th Amendment. All it had done was create a more dangerous product, which was being made with all sorts of additives including poisons, and it brought about a rise in organized crime. Most of Kentucky's distilleries never reopened. As for that medicinal alcohol? Some bottles still remain out there and there are some whiskey bars that have tasting nights with some of these rare whiskies. It's suggested that some are of an amazing quality.