Ask Jacquelyn Zykan, Old Forester’s master taster and bourbon specialist, what a day on the job is like, and she’ll have a different answer for you every day. For Jacquelyn– or Jackie– being a master taster
for the 147 -year-old whiskey brand is a hybrid role: a fusion of science, pr, and marketing, all while being an educator and historian.
Her intricate knowledge of biology, chemistry, and whiskey was essential in developing Old Forester’s rye whiskey, which debuted earlier this year. Zykan hit the road for months to explain the sensory experience behind the new spirit with a completely different flavor profile than its bourbon cousin. Just a few weeks ago, Old Forester released its highly coveted birthday bourbon, and this year’s limited spirit has the highest proof of its edition to date. And it’s up to Zykan to explain it all.
Now, take that, and add the fact that Zykan spent years as a rock star bartender and beverage director in cities like Nashville and St. Louis. In fact, her previous role–master bourbon specialist– was crafted especially for her. That fluent speech in both bartender and bourbon helped her usher in this decade’s modern whiskey boom, a time in the industry where bartenders are heading back to the basics for in-depth studies of the craft, taking time to learn and experiment with base spirits and examining flavor profiles.
This week, Zykan will bring her encyclopedic knowledge of the science of spirits to Birmingham for a three-day Old Forester olfactory experience– a series of public and industry tasting events designed to take a deep dive into the flavor profiles and history of Old Forester. The public festivities kick off on Wednesday, June 16 at Lenell’s Beverage Beverage Boutique in Norwood. After that, Zykan will host tastings at Roots and Revelry, East-West, and a four-course dinner at Garden and Galley. To cap off the week, she’ll host an Old Forester “Taste Through History” lunch with some of the city’s bartenders.
Zykan will have a captive audience in Birmingham. Monday night, the city concluded its second Old Forester Old Fashioned face off, a competition in which some of the state’s most talented bartenders crafted their unique versions of the classic cocktail. This year’s winner, Will Jones of Southern National in Mobile, will head to Louisville for a VIP behind the scenes tour of the new Old Forester distillery on Whiskey Row with Zykan and Birmingham’s Old Forester brand ambassador James Joseph, a two-hour guest bartending spot at George’s Bar, and dinner with the Old Forester brand team.