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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.