During prohibition, the Old Fitzgerald brand was acquired by Pappy Van Winkle as part of what would be the Stitzel-Weller family of products. It is here where Old Fitzgerald seems to take its fame. During this and the early post-prohibition era, Old Fitzgerald (like the later Weller and Van Winkle lines of products) became a “soft” wheated bourbon, setting it apart from the mainstream rye bourbons.
Old Fitzgerald remained a staple of the Stitzel-Weller family until the 1970’s, when the Stitzel-Weller Distillery was sold. It continued to be produced at the same facility (albeit renamed and by a series of owners) until 1992. The brand was sold to Heaven Hill in 1999.
Despite its prominent history, the early 2000’s saw the continued downturn of the Old Fitzgerald brand. In 2012, Heaven Hill modified its Old Fitzgerald line to include John E. Fitzgerald Larceny. The old Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond and Old Fitzgerald 1849 soon went away, and the bottom shelf Old Fitzgerald Prime is not since been widely available.
Today, Heaven Hill has once again released the Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond as a super premium product. It sits along side Larceny in Heaven Hill’s wheated lineup. This past winter, Heaven Hill released a barrel-proof version of Larceny to further broaden the brand’s reach.
Larceny Barrel Proof A120 (123.2 Proof) (NAS)
Nose: Hard candy cherry; dark brown sugar; ethanol; black pepper; baking spice; apple; ginger. Fairly faint overall in aroma but noticeable ethanol. (2.5/5)
Palate: Buttery and hot. Char; cinnamon brown sugar buttery toast; caramel coffee cake; brown sugar; vanilla; ginger; milk chocolate; faint PayDay candy bar. (3.5/5)
Finish: Coffee cake; vanilla; hard cherry candy; red licorice; dry chocolate; light nut; char. Medium to medium-long but longer lingering heat. (2.5/5)
Overall: This brings the heat. But the buttery palate makes it worth it. A stronger finish would have brought this around. Not a bad showing, but not quite what I had hoped for. (3/5)
Value: This seem to retail locally for around $65, when it is available. While this may be in line with the pricing of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, the age and quality don’t justify Elijah Craig Barrel Proof’s price (which is itself a fantastic buy). (2.5/5)
“This brings the heat. But the buttery palate makes it worth it.”
Overall, my expectations are not met. It isn’t a bad product, but I’m not sure the product justifies either its scarcity (i.e., “the hunt”) or the price. If I found the next batch on a shelf at retail, I’d likely pick it up just for the experience. But I wouldn’t pick up a second bottle of A120.
Nonetheless, it got me wondering. Would this replace the always-available and more affordable Makers Mark Cask Strength as a go-to affordable cask strength wheated bourbon? Or would its “discount” in price compared to secondary prices on the Wheated Full Proof make it an affordable trophy replacement? While we have reviewed each separately, since we’ve not reviewed these three head-to-head-to-head before, I thought I’d give them a try.
Makers Cask Strength (110.4 proof) (NAS) (previously reviewed here)
Nose: Sweet bread; brown sugar; cinnamon; vanilla; red licorice; plum; malt; dry oak. A bit simple with a few hard edges but enjoyable. (3.5/5)
Palate: Cinnamon sugar; caramel; vanilla sugar cookies; cherry; black cherry. (3.5/5)
Finish: Cherry; strawberry; black cherry; light chocolate; malt. (3.5/5).
Overall: Underrated. This very enjoyable and very drinkable. It’s not perfect. It’s not overly complex. But it packs big flavor that lingers just long enough to make you want more. (3.5/5)
Value: This one seems to have no accepted price point. When it first came out, this seemed to always fall in the $60-$70 range. It didn’t seem to move in our market. Then sales hit in the $35-$40 range. I’d drink it all day at that price. It seems to have settled at around $45. I think it’s a solid pour at that price. (4/5).
Weller Full Proof (115 Proof) (NAS)
Nose: Dark fruit; grapes; strawberry; baking spice; cherry; coffee/latte. A nice hint of oak and leather in the background. (3.5/5)
Palate: Oily; cherry; dark fruit; fruit leather; leather; baking spice. (4/5)
Finish: Dark cherry; dark fruit leather; dry oak. Lingering baking spice. (4/5)
Overall: Rich flavor and an amazing mouthfeel. For me this hits the perfect balances on age and flavor. (4/5)
Value: Price on this bottle seems to be a bit misleading for most. With an MSRP of $50, this seems to find the right place in the Weller lineup. I paid around $100. At my price I’m still more than satisfied. (3.5/5)
Unfortunately for Heaven Hill, this seems to miss its mark against competitors. With Weller Full Proof at retail blowing this away, and even at low secondary pricing having just as good of value, Heaven Hill does not seem to win over any Weller fans. And as I’d probably reach for Makers Mark Cask Strength over this regardless of price, it doesn’t seem to win over any Makers fans. Sure, there are plenty who will disagree, but for me this is a bit of a miss for Heaven Hill.
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.