End of the Year Bottle Party – Old Fitzgerald Flight

Very Old Fitzgerald

Flight Club held its 4th annual “End of the Year Bottle” Party on January 19, 2019, celebrating the end of 2018 (our 5th year in existence).

Our club collects “dues” each month, part of which go to pay for our monthly tastings, and part of which is placed in reserves for a single bottle.  According to our Bylaws:

“The Membership shall, from year to year, collect dues to be segregated from other funds for the purpose of conducting a Special Meeting called the “End of the Year Bottle Party.”   Except as agreed to from year to year, the regular yearly dues shall include (in addition to those amounts set out in Article III and those amounts necessary for capital needs of the Club) an additional $120, to be pooled and allocated to the selection of a single bottle, selected by the Membership by majority vote.   From year to year, upon the vote of the majority vote of the Membership, (a) dues may be increased and (b) the number of bottles purchased with the allocated funds may be increased.

The End of the Year Bottle Party shall be set by a majority vote of the Membership to occur around January of each year.  The time, place and logistics of such meeting shall be set by the Membership.”

This year’s event featured our first full flight in EOTYB history, an Old Fitzgerald lineup consisting of the following:

  • Very Very Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 12 Year (1954-1966)
  • Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond “Leprechaun Bottle” Decanter (1961-1968)
  • Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 11 Year (Spring 2018)
  • Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond (2017)

The two 1960’s bottles were Stitzel-Weller distilled; the two 2010’s bottles were Heaven Hill distilled.  Both used a wheated mash bill.

Very Old Fitzgerald

While we must protect the identity of the sources, both of the 1960’s bottles fell in our laps through local whiskey community connections.   A special thanks to Jay Cary and Jamie Baalmann for making these happen.  The Leprechaun decanter was covered in dust, and we had some concern over the condition of its contents.  Meanwhile, the VVOF bottle was one of the most pristine condition 1960’s era bottles that we had ever seen.  Purportedly, it never left its velvet-lined box, which never left the basement bar cabinet.  How would those conditions foreshadow the final product?  We would certainly find out.

But first, a bit about our evening…

Flight Club ICT

Our event would be held at The Ambassador, a Marriott “Autograph Collection” boutique hotel located in downtown Wichita.  The hotel itself is about 6 years old, in a building constructed in 1926 and once known as the Union National Bank building.  In the Hotel’s basement sits the Dockum, a speakeasy style bar, complete with a private room (the vault) dating back to the old bank days. On the main floor sits the Siena Tuscan Steakhouse.  The hotel occupies the remaining of the 14 floors, and at its penthouse sits the Rock Star Suite, a 1,596 square foot party haven.  Dockum, Siena and the Ambassador Hotel itself are three of Wichita’s top options in the bar, restaurant and hotel categories.

Our event would begin at the Dockum.  Dockum was kind enough to curate two cocktails around our theme – the Old Lace Cocktail, and the Peach Cobbler.  Both featured Larceny Bourbon, which is the only available extension of the Old Fitzgerald lineup in our area, other than the recent 9 and 11 year decanters.  Recipes for each are below.

Old Lace Cocktail
1.5 oz. Larceny Bourbon
.75 oz Carpano Antica
.5 oz Cynar
.5 oz brown simple syrup
2 dashes house bitters
Stirred and served with a dehydrated lemon wheel

Peach Cobbler
2 oz. Larceny Bourbon
.5 oz lemon juice
.5 oz honey syrup
2 dashes peach bitters
1 barspoon peach jam
Shaken and served in a smoked rocks glass

Following a couple rounds of drinks, we headed upstairs to the Siena Tuscan Steakhouse, where we enjoyed additional drinks, appetizers and dinner.   Following our over-indulgence at dinner, we headed to the Rock Star Suite and our flight of Old Fitzgerald.

We elected to drink and enjoy the standard Bottled-in-Bond and not take formal tasting notes.  While enjoying this whiskey, Scott Hill, as 2017 Man of the Year and emcee, awarded himself the 2018 Man of the Year.   A recount was quickly demanded.

We have previously reviewed both the Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond and the Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 11 Year (Spring 2018).  Without further ado, our tasting notes.

Very Old Fitzgerald

Very, Very Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 12 Year (1954-1966)

Nose: Initial (and very pleasing) old bourbon notes of vanilla, butterscotch, caramel and vanilla ice cream; quickly following funk of old leather (with almost an earthy, green character like an old lawn mowing shoe); dust; a light metallic note and brass; dark fruit, plum and maraschino cherry; salt.  A very inviting notes with sweet and funky notes that created quite the excitement for the tastes to come.

Palate:  Leather,  spice, green grapes and a non-so-subtle unmistakable gasoline and metallic note.  After acclimating ourselves to the strong off-putting notes, we were able to find some burnt sugar, plum and additional wood notes.  And with a bit of time open in the glass (nearly an hour for some of us), the gasoline note softened, but never fully went away.

Finish:  More metallic, gasoline and other old-car flavors that seem to overpower what other flavors may have been present; some red fruits; leather; a bit of tannic/astringent oak dryness.

Overall:  Many of us described this bottle (that being a 1960’s Stitzel-Weller Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond) as being one of our “top 10 whiskeys to try before we die.”  We tried it, so we can check that off our list.  But any time you try a 50+ year old bottle, you are taking a gamble.  We knew this.  Unfortunately, this particular bottle didn’t live up to our expectations.  And we are not sure entirely why.  We aren’t convinced we wouldn’t like the next bottle, but we didn’t love this one.  There were no notes that told us that the bottle had turned rancid per se.  And no apparent defects in the bottle (not a low fill, nothing suggesting it was tainted).  But we lost this gamble.  Such is the game.

Very Old Fitzgerald

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond “Leprechaun Bottle” Decanter (1961-1968)

Nose:   Sweet and rich brown sugar, with hints of white sugar and caramel; green apple and some subtler dark fruit; old, worn/dusty leather like a well-used baseball; vanilla bean, chocolate.   The nose didn’t leap out of the glass, but you didn’t have to search very hard.   Not overly oaked, but not light on the wood aromas, either.

Palate:  Thick brown sugar; raisin and other dark fruit; leather; a light but still present metallic/tannic note that is indicative of this vintage; grape sweet tarts; crisp oak; black licorice; salted caramel.  The flavor complexity is possibly more than we could have expected here, yet each of the notes married quite well together for a very cohesive and enjoyable pour.

Finish:  Medium-long.  Black jelly bean, flat cola, corn syrup accompany the traditional bourbon notes of vanilla and caramel.  A very satisfying finish to this experience.

Overall:  We were most concerned with the integrity of this bottle, given its dusty condition, broken cork, and opaque decanter.  Nonetheless, this stole the show.  It was incredible, and exactly what we hoped to experience with some 1950’s-1960’s era Stitzel-Weller.  No doubt this followed the sweet, wheated profile that we expected.  But the complexity and spice added so much to the expected sweet experience.  A winner.

Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 11 Year (Spring 2018) (previously reviewed by Scott Hill and Stephen Netherton)

Nose: Dry, nutty, unsalted peanut shell; raw California almonds; milk chocolate; bing cherries; honey; sugar in the raw; vanilla; baking spice; leather.

Palate: Cinnamon; peanut/peanut butter and peanut brittle; fruit cocktail; light baking spice; more chocolate.  A bit thin and brash compared to the palate of the previous decanter.

Finish: Peanut butter; dry, burnt sugar; more peanut butter and some oak spice.

Overall:  While this does still have some of the character of a typical wheated profile, our experience here showed more influence from the Heaven Hill “nuttiness” than actual sweetness from the wheat.  This may have something to do with its head-to-head matchup with the much sweeter (and viscous) Stitzel-Weller products (including the nose of the Very, Very Old Fitzgerald above).  A good product, but understandably under-appreciated when comparing to the Stitzel-Weller Leprechaun decanter.

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