November 18, 2013
In my ongoing quest to discover truth in the claim that there is still good value in bourbon, I grabbed a bottle of this inexpensive Kentucky Straight Bourbon. At $16 a bottle, I’m not expecting fireworks. At 100 proof (50% ABV), Old Fitzgerald has a decent heft and can stand up to cocktail ingredients. This bottle is labelled “DSP-KY-1″ (which means it was distilled at the Heaven Hill/Bernheim distillery) and bottled at DSP-KY-31 (the original Heaven Hill facility at Bardstown, Kentucky), where it was probably warehoused as well. Heaven Hill is a huge operation, capable of filling 1000 barrels a DAY, and owning the rights to produce 86 different bourbon labels, all of which are made using only two mashbills (one with wheat as the flavor grain, the other with rye). That means that Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, and Henry McKenna, and many more are all basically the same rye-flavored straight bourbon whiskey, just aged and proofed differently. Old Fitzgerald, Larceny, Parker’s Heritage 10 year, and Rebel Yell are basically all the same wheat-flavored straight bourbon whiskey. Sorta takes away from the “Prohibition-Era”, “Bottled in Bond” mystique, doesn’t it?
Nose: Walnuts, caramel-covered apples, an unfortunate dose of “fake”-smelling corn syrup, and a bit of wood varnish.
Palate: Hot on the tongue. Not over-oaked, but some nicely-balanced cooked sugar notes with some baking spices (clove, cinnamon), reminiscent of ginger snap cookies.
Finish: Medium-long, a continuance of the palate flavors, and mercifully without bitterness. A final ghost of roasted chestnuts.
With Water: Several drops of water opens a very nice cloud of vanilla, and rounds off (and dulls) the palate. Take it or leave it, but the synergy with water bodes well for its mixability. Is that a word?
Overall: While Old Fitz doesn’t bring anything exciting or original to the table, it has a good amount of heft (100 proof), some reasonably well-balanced flavors, an unobjectionable finish, and is light enough to mix a cocktail without dominating it. I could wish the aroma had a little less of that “cheap bourbon” character, but beggars (at $16 a bottle) can’t be choosers.
After mixing a simple cocktail, I have to say I’ve had more robustly-flavored drinks with other bourbons, but not $16 ones.