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Old Fitzgerald 12 Year Old

Average score from 3 reviews and 6 ratings 86

Old Fitzgerald 12 Year Old

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Old Fitzgerald 12 Year Old

Old Fitzgerald as originally, since 1870, produced for private clubs in the south, run by John E. Fitzgerald, a ship and steel magnate from Frankfort, Kentucky. But it was already available in Europe by 1900, due to its popularity. Until 1913 it was created in a pot still. During Prohibition, ‘Old Fitz’ was allowed to continue his production, albeit for medicinal purposes. Fitz replaced the rye with wheat in his mash bill. Today, it is a product of Heaving Hill and matured for 12 years.

The nose is juicy and reminds me of summer, with vanilla custard, mandarins, cinnamon, gingerbread and toffee. Very aromatic and inviting.

Quite creamy and mouthcoating. The oak stays low and leaves the vanilla and the fruit to do all the preliminary work. Brown sugar joins in. As does banana. Why, this is becoming tropical! Slowly but surely, the spices let their voices be heard. It comes in waves, really. I get cinnamon and ginger, but also a bit of pepper. Very drinkable and very complex.

The finish is not as long as I would have hoped, but a nice conclusion to this complex, sweet and utterly quaffable bourbon.



Old Fitzgerald is one of the five large brands of the 5 % of the bourbon market which comprises whiskeys made from wheat instead of rye as the "flavoring grain". The others are Van Winkle, Weller, Maker's Mark, and Rebel Yell. Old Fitzgerald is made at the Heaven Hill distillery, which produces a great volume of whiskey, many brands of its own, and is a provider of a large percentage of the whiskey made for independent American bottlers. Old Fitzgerald markets a 6 yo Gold Label, a 10 yo "1849" Label, and this 12 yo version.

The reviewed bottle has been open for 17 months. The ratings given are for the whiskey at 17 months. For the first few months after the bottle was opened, I really was quite disappointed in this bottle. I would then have given this whiskey 75 pts.

Colour: relatively dark, from 12 years in new wood

Body: at first, medium, slightly oily; after 17 months very oily, one of the most oily I have experienced from a bourbon. This really greases up the mouth

Nose: at first, slight to moderate intensity, slightly sweet, slight vanilla, slight wheat scent. After 17 months, strong aromatic maple, a little astringent, lemon tart, wheat spice, moderate vanilla. A very nice nose

Taste: At first, this translated the slight nose flavours; after 17 months, this translated the well-developed flavours described above. Very sweet on the delivery. Pleasant

Finish: on first bottle opening, just a moderate fade out of the sweet vanilla flavours; after 17 months, strong and long finish, but with a bit of a bite, becoming, as my wife correctly suggests, like cough syrup. There's some bitterness here. This bottle has a disappointing finish after a promising nose and early delivery

Balance: at first there was a non-descript combination of flavours, weak, with a little sweet wood and wheat flavours; well-oxidised, a very pleasant bourbon flawed by a bitter finish. I didn't like this bottle at all until it became well-oxidised. Now it is good, but it could have been much better.

The quality of any brand from any distillery may vary greatly over time. The Old Fitzgerald brand had an excellent reputation some years ago. I have to say that for me their products of the last 3 years have been so weak to my palate that I would say that I consider the recent Old Fitzgerald to be the weakest, yes, "worst", large brand I have experienced among all American bourbon whiskeys. A very experienced bourbon-whiskey-elder friend of mine once summed this up by saying that he thought that Old Fitzgerald 12 yo was derived from the barrels that Heaven Hill rejected for the sublimely wonderful Parker's Heritage Collection 10 yo Wheated bourbons. Jim Murray in his 2012 Bible says that Old Fitzgerald has improved quite a lot from last year to this year. I haven't tasted any very recent released bottles of it yet, and probably won't buy another bottle of it for some time. I do hope one day that I will become a bigger fan of Old Fitz.

just to give my five cents to this discussion - usually bottles change over the years in the bottle and the mysterious OBE (old bottle effect) is not necessarily bad.

If the cork is intact, the bottle is filled more then 50% (depends on the strength - a 40% Whisky is more likely to become flat as a Whisky with higher strength) and the bottle is stored in a Dark and temperature consistent (preferably cool) place you should´t worry. If you put your bottles in the basement as you mentioned they sure will be fine. Old Whisky are usually more sensible and once you open them you could fill them in smaller bottles or use glass marbles to reduce the air in the bottle.

As I discovered in trying many old bottles from the 1920´s to the 1960´s and compare standard bottlings of the same distillery/age/strength from different periods these bottles show a different style of whisky which is caused by many factors: peat, process of producing different compared with todays more industrialized methods, slow oxidization, glass bottles where different and reacted with the molecules of the spirit, use of different yeasts, different casks etc...to name but a few.

There are some very interesting articles in the web (check out whisky science, the malt maniacs etc...) - as Whisky is a complex chemical liquid it is liable that there is no equilibrium in the bottle over a long period of time. I discovered three main directions in the OBE: 1. metallic palate feel (often in blends); 2.deconstructed peat into tropical/fruity aromas and 3.edgy feeling with bitter notes - sometimes even musty (which is bad...). Ooops - that was maybe slightly off-topic ;)

@Maltster - Thanks - these are good things - there is definitely a chemical reaction taking place. As an example, the notion of an "iodine" nose, etc. seems a little superfluous to me. This is something I routinely upon the initial pour. I simply let the material hand out (open up) for 20 - 30 minutes (I tend to find it actually takes this long) and I find that feature completely disappears. Therefore, no whisky really has iodine as a real feature - that is simply the beginning of the process. At least this is my present theory.

Based on my bit of experience, I am perceiving that I would not let my whisky be stored over say 65 - 68 - which is where it was most of the winter at maximum. Yesterday my house got up to a stuffy 75+ and I am uncertain whether this was good for the material based on some initial experience (obviously much more research will be required here...:-) - hopefully my bottled friends will be will not have been overly or permanently saddened by their experience - I still have a lot of work to do!


Nose, Taste, Finish and Balance are graded out of 2.5 each:

Nose: Luscious summer oranges floating in vanilla butter, followed by rich shortbread dipped in custard. An mesmerisingly smooth and confident nose. 2.5

Taste: As full bodied as the deep colour would suggest, with a restrained oak layering itself over the palate before rhythmic waves of vanilla, cinnamon and ginger sensually lick against it. 2.0

Finish: As the vanillas rain down heavily, an inverted umbrella of molten brown sugar opens up fully in the mouth, almost stretching the palate as it does so, before catching in it the cascading toffeed oranges and ginger coated bananas. A candied tropical storm of a finish. 2.5

Balance: Like a meteorological event this bourbon has come straight out of nowhere and swept away all that came before it. Beautiful structures such as the Eagle Rare 10 and the Blanton's Single Barrel Gold Edition lie wearily damaged in its wake. And like all forces of nature there is a compelling beauty to its power, and this Old Fitzgerald is a true monsoon of a bourbon. Awe-inspiring. 2.5

OJK: I have wanted to try the Old Fitz 12 for some time, but even though I live in an area with excellent whiskey availability and probably the best prices in the USA, I have never seen it in a store or on a bar menu. As to samples in the mail, in Maryland it is a felony to ship liquor into the state. There are odd local laws here.

@AboutChoice and @dbk: hey guys, it is indeed exceptional bourbon. I have since tried it again and it really is that good. Strangely it's quite easy to find here in the UK - let me know though if you can't find it over in usa/canada, I would be happy to send you each a sample.

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