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Old Fitzgerald 12 Year Old

Good After 17 Months

0 684

@VictorReview by @Victor

8th Jun 2012


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

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.

Related Old Fitzgerald reviews


GregLogan commented


I have a question that is entirely off topic but I have no other way to get through to you.

I had a glass of Middleton Very Rare sitting out over night. In the morning it had a sort of burnt toffee smell and did not taste right - I was shocked to experience the change in chemistry. As you may recall, this delightful whiskey is very light and fruity - so this was a massive change. I had some Bush 21 adjacent which did not go through the same conversion. I thought it might have something to do with the Middleton.

HOWEVER, I poured some GF 21 this morning thinking it would be a delight when I got home. Instead the EXACT same chemistry change with the same burnt toffee taste was powerfully present. I just threw it out.

What is the deal with whiskey - Irish or Scotch - going bad like this??? I am concerned now that it has warmed up (currently about 75 in my house) that my entire stock my go bad (about 3k - painful!). Needless to say, I am moving it down to the basement this week.

Regardless, I would really like to know what happened to my whiskey. Have you or anyone else experienced this sort of chemical conversion??

Thanks so much


PS Just bought a couple more bottles of the HP18 - will be letting them open up for a couple mos - albeit in the basement...:-)

9 years ago 0

Victor commented

Hi Greg, I think that whenever whisky is left out in a glass, one has to be very careful, because usually the oxidative process will overwhelm it after a period of time that will vary with the other conditions present and the specific whisky in question, but certainly a period of several hours can turn many whiskies into something previously unrecognizable. I don't think I would leave a whisky more than about 20-30 minutes without then checking on it at regular intervals of 10-15 minutes to see how it is faring. I do think that with careful observation that one can open up whiskies by oxidising them in the glass, but that it can be easily lost control of without a lot of attention.

9 years ago 0

GregLogan commented

OK - I am wondering if temperature may have something to do with this. I have never experienced it before (in my four short months of imbibing...:-) ). However, the weather is warming and this just happened. I will have to try a few experiments. What is interesting is that the direction they went was exactly the same - and, as you said, quite unrecognizable.

I presume that the same does not occur when sealed in the bottle in the box, etc. Have you heard of an entire bottle going bad?


9 years ago 0

Victor commented

Certainly temperature is one of the important variables, though I am sure that exposure to air in cool temperatures will also cause strong oxidative change given a period of hours.

Bottles do age over a number of years, as @WhiskyNotes has posted in prior Connosr discussions. Usually, though, unless there are other strongly affecting conditions like a lot of heat or a lot of direct sunlight, those changes aren't likely to be very great in an unopened bottle until decades have passed. I haven't personally had the experience to comment on the phenomenon of aging in the bottle that occurs over many years.

Of course, entire bottles do go bad in those cases where the corks deteriourate or are initially defective. Estimates of the frequency of that occurring are, I believe, often a little more than 5% of the time.

9 years ago 0

maltster commented

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 ;)

9 years ago 0

GregLogan commented

@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!

9 years ago 0

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