Old Fitzgerald releases, from Heaven Hill, remain some of the most sought-after allocated bourbons on the market. Part of that comes from the mystique behind the wheated bourbon’s history with the Van Winkle family. Another aspect of the hype is that these are released in pretty small quantities to a select few markets and liquor stores (allocations), making them catnip on the secondary market. Lastly, there’s the quality of the juice in the bottle — it’s usually stellar.
Today, we’re digging into the whiskey in these fancy decanters to see how the two 2021 drops stand up side-by-side. We’re comparing the just-dropped Fall release (an eleven-year-old bourbon) with the Spring release (an eight-year-old bourbon). We’re looking at what’s changed, what’s the same, and which is better.
To do that, I’ll be pulling in my review of the Spring 2021 release’s tasting notes for comparison’s sake after I review the new Fall 2021 release. Then I’ll sum everything up at the end and see if I can manage to pick a favorite. Let’s dive in!
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Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 11 Years Aged, Fall 2021
Average Price: $110 MSRP
The juice in this decanter is an eleven-year-old bourbon pulled from barrels in Warehouse EE. The wheated bourbon was loaded into the rickhouse back in the spring of 2010 and left alone until 2021. The whiskey was then vatted and proofed down to the bottled-in-bond proof of 50 percent or 100 proof, as per federal law.
This opens shockingly light with a note of dried fruit, creamy vanilla pudding, a touch of applewood with a smidge of cinnamon and clove, and the lightest note of leather. The palate leans into the maltiness of the wheat while touching back on that dried fruit (think sultanas and dates) and gently indulging in holiday cake spice, candied fruits, a hint of cedar-infused tobacco leaves, dry grass, and a malty cracker imbued with toffee and maybe a hint of dried almond shells. The end is pure silk with a line towards the drier aspects of the taste and malt plus a final note of piney firewood and apple-cinnamon fritters.
This is pretty damn even-keeled and delicious. It’s amazingly approachable while bringing some serious depth. You really get more and more as you go back for another nose and sip, again and again. It grows, makes sense, and is incredibly crushable.
98/100 — This was damn near perfect. It’s also very easy to drink, making it a wonderful sipper while it’s still warm out.
FOR COMPARISON: Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond 8 Years Aged, Spring 2021
Average Price: $85 MSRP
This year’s spring release is a marriage of eight-year-old whiskeys produced in the spring of 2013. That distilled juice rested in barrels spread throughout three warehouses on several different floors. In spring of this year, those barrels were vatted and whiskey was proofed down to 100 (per bottled-in-bond law). Then the whiskey was filled into Old Fitzgerald’s signature decanters and sent out into the world.
Goddamn! This is gorgeous. The nose draws you in with warming eggnog spice, creamy vanilla pudding, rich toffee, mild fruit, and a hint of wet cedar and very muted citrus. To say this is “smooth” would be an understatement. The silky taste dances around oven-hot pans of pecan and maple-glazed sticky buns with plenty of cinnamon and nutmeg next to caramelized orange peel vibes and lightness that’s almost hard to believe. The finish is long, effervescent, and leaves you with this soft sense of having just eaten the best oatmeal raisin cookie of your life with just the right amounts of oats, spice, raisins, brown sugar, and crumble.
We can see how people go crazy for this juice. This is one of the most beautiful American whiskeys we’ve had in a while. This is classic bourbon flavors in a classic decanter but elevated to the next level. The taste is welcoming and fills you with a sense of ease. There are no rough edges. It’s somehow light while also brimming with big flavors. It’s a goddamn masterpiece.
Ugh… I almost hate to do this, seeing as it’s such a high ranking for our first single bottle review of the year. But I just nosed and re-tasted this expression against my two favorite expressions of 2020 and, whew — 99/100. Final answer.
Tasting these both again today, I have to give the edge to the Spring release. But I have to caveat that with the fact that my palate really loves those big, syrupy, Christmas cookie, spicy notes. The Fall 2021 is a masterstroke but a little drier and more into the woody spice barks with less textural depth and a little bit shorter finish.
I kind of feel like the Spring 2021 is going to be my go-to winter sipper after big meals with roasted fowl. The Fall 2021, on the other hand, feels like a late-summer sipper before things start to get too brisk and rainy. But, let’s be honest, I’m super-duper splitting hairs over these two exceptional whiskeys. I know, I know… great whiskey tastes great, who knew!?