Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Heaven Hill. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
As we mentioned in July, the Spring 2020 of Heaven Hill Distillery’s Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey continues the twice-yearly series of special bottled-in-bond releases. This would be the fifth of these releases, a little delayed owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ll forgive the wait, for sure.
We also reviewed the Fall 2019 edition (spoiler alert: I fucking loved it.) Bonus: It comes in a cool old-school-looking decanter, too, if you like to show off your booze and don’t just cram it into a precariously full cabinet like I do.
According to the old Fitzgerald website, the packaging and series honor both the history of the Old Fitzgerald brand and the historic Bottled-in-Bond designation. The Old Fitzgerald brand was first registered in 1884 and was eventually sold to “Pappy” Van Winkle during Prohibition. In 1999, Heaven Hill bought the brand and began distilling it at Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky.
Aging for these bottled-in-bond editions isn’t super-consistent. This Spring 2020 rendition is made of barrels from March 2011 and was bottled in March 2020; it sports a green label like the other spring releases (the fall ones are red, by the way: festive!). Fall’s release was 15 years old. So, kind of a mix of ages. It’s like a bottled-in-bond one-room schoolhouse! (Remember school?)
We’ve explained the bottled-in-bond designation before, but here’s a refresher from The Bourbon Review: “Bottled-in-bond bourbons must be distilled at the same distillery in the same distilling season, aged minimum of four years in a government bonded warehouse, and bottled at 100 proof.”
Although the proof remains consistent, pricing for Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond releases fluctuate. The Spring 2020 edition retails for around $90, though the Fall 2019 release carried a price tag of around $150.
Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond Spring 2020 Edition (image via Heaven Hill)
Tasting Notes: Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond Spring 2020 Edition
Vital stats: About $90; 100 proof, aged nine years in charred American oak.
Appearance: Despite the label on the bottle being green, this is indeed in the red spectrum. It looks backlit by the sun. Irish setter red. A shiny cherry wood table.
Nose: Perhaps this is wishful thinking, but this smells like fall. As in: It smells like something I should be drinking in fall. Crisp mornings, frost, apple-picking, chilly fingertips warmed by a fire. I don’t mean this evokes warm flesh, but it does make me pine for, well, piney woods. There’s also a sweetness to it, like fresh-baked cake in the early stages of cooling. Comfort and goodness.
Palate: Less smooth than Fall 2019, but I’m guessing that’s because it’s younger. It begins rich and smooth, with a bittersweet chocolate pudding vibe, but finishes with a lick of fire at the back of the throat. It’s more sweet than savory, more soft than chewy. I like it, but I’m not gaga over it like I was the 2019. It’s just fine—good, really—but my expectations were admittedly high. It doesn’t come across like anything hallowed to me.
This whiskey smiles in greeting...and then gooses you goodbye. If you like the other Old Fitz-es I’d encourage you to try and find this one, if only to keep your collection consistent. But it’s a little rough around the edges for me, especially during a time when I’m seeking comfort and coziness.
A decade ago, I traded a 5th floor walkup in Hoboken, NJ for a house in SE Portland and remain grateful for the swap. Portland’s a great whiskey town: It fits the weather and my general mood (even improves it sometimes). I enjoy exploring the many shades of brown liquor...