The Old Fitzgerald brand has a rich history. It existed pre-Prohibition. Not long after Prohibition was repealed, the brand was purchased by none other than the famed Stitzel-Weller distillery. Old Fitzgerald’s recipe was changed to substitute wheat instead of rye.
Stitzel-Weller, of course, is known for producing the Van Winkle line. Old Fitzgerald and the Van Winkle line are thought to share the same mash bill (more on the history of the Stitzel-Weller distillery here).
Around 1992, the Stitzel-Weller distillery ceased production. Since then, the Old Fitzgerald brand has continued to be produced at Heaven Hill’s Bernheim distillery in Louisville, Kentucky.
There are many modern expressions of Old Fitzgerald – Old Fitzgerald Prime, Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond, Old Fitzgerald’s 1879, and Very Special Old Fitzgerald 12-year. While these are all good bourbons in their own right, and are typically sought after by many, the “old” Old Fitzgerald bottles, those distilled prior to Stitzel-Weller’s closing, are holy grails.
Even those who struggle mathematically know that the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Year is a Heaven Hill product, not Stitzel-Weller. Nevertheless, an 11-year age stated wheated bourbon at 100 proof is expected to make a splash in today’s market. Throw in the fact that the bottle is packaged in an ornate decanter, and anticipation is bound to follow.
But is the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Year, setting aside the decanter, truly a novelty?
After the initial wave of excitement following Heaven Hill’s release announcement, some asked, “Wait, how is this really any different from Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year?”
That’s…a good question. After all, Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year is also a wheated bourbon, 100 proof, distilled at Heaven Hill’s Bernheim location.
We’ve written on Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year on multiple occasions. We’ve compared it to Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year. We’ve compared it to Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond from the early 2000s. We’ve compared the 2016 release to the 2017 release. Obviously, based on the multiple reviews and comparisons, we like it.
In fact, we like it enough that instead of asking whether Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year can match up to the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Year, the question may be more appropriately asked the other way around.
And here’s the real catch – the Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year is readily available in Wichita for $59.99. Only a handful of the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Year came to town, and its retail price is $110.
So, as we do, we decided to compare the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Year with the Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year. Because the Old Fitzgerald was distilled between February and May 2006, we decided to select a Rebel Yell that was also distilled in 2006.
Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Year (Distilled 2006, 100 Proof)
Nose: Rich milk chocolate right up front, honey, earthy/leather, light cinnamon spice and oak, lightly toasted marshmallow, vanilla, some nutmeg; mellow overall, with a notable lack of fruit that is common among wheated bourbons, but overall inviting due to a gentle influence of ethanol. 3.5/5
Palate: A bit thinner than expected, with a nutty texture, but also oily/creamy; honey, brown sugar, leather, some nutmeg and a bit more baking spice that was not apparent on the nose; milk chocolate; purple grapes. 3.5/5
Finish: Some pepper, oak, leather, milk chocolate; brown peanut M&M’s sums up the total experience. 3.5/5
Overall: This is a pleasant drinking bourbon, which yields close criticism because of what it was advertised and packaged to be. Nevertheless, the flavor combinations and peanut M&M’s profile is very nice. 3.5/5
Value: This retails for $110, which puts it into the same category as BTAC and cask strength Scotch. When that happens, a certain experience is going to be expected. And when there is a close sibling in Rebel Yell that provides such a similar experience for half the cost, it all results in a less than satisfying feeling at that price point. 2/5
Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year (Distilled 2006, 100 Proof, Barrel #5083205)
Nose: More robust than the Old Fitz, with more char and oak, chalkboard, cocoa, grape skin, empty box of raisins; a bit more ethanol than the Old Fitz, but still inviting with its more mellow character given its proof. 3/5
Palate: Much more nutty up front, peanuts, cashews and almonds, milk chocolate, caramel, vanilla; has a much creamier and mouth-coating texture than the Old Fitz; flat grape soda, some cherries. 3.5/5
Finish: Charred oak and dark chocolate; some light unsalted peanuts; purple grapes; the same length as the Old Fitz, but a bit drier. 3/5
Overall: This is a solid pour from start to finish, though it sputters a bit on the back end with the dryness. However, it holds up to its age and provides depth of flavors that all combine for a very nice experience. 3.5/5
Value: This is available in Wichita for $59.99. For a ten-year age stated, single barrel, wheated bourbon at 100 proof, this delivers serious value in today’s market. 3.5/5
This comparison was a fun exercise, and would probably be best done blind. Nevertheless, even with the potential bias towards the more expensive bottle in the crystal decanter, the Rebel Yell holds its own. We obviously liked the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Year. But when retailing at $110, a bottle will naturally generate expectations and potential criticism. Bottom line – if you price yourself as one of the big boys, you better bring it.
Just like seemingly every movie these days, there will be a sequel. Heaven Hill announced that Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond will continue as a semi-annual release. Rumor has it that the Fall 2018 release will be 9 years old. Stay tuned; we’ll be ready.
Check out the video below to see our review live:
Stephen is a regular writer at FlightClubICT.com