Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond (2002) - 50%
Context: The nineties have always been one of the most fascinating decades of bourbon to me. A transition period: pre-boom, post bust. The year 1992 in particular. The closure of Stizel-Weller. The demolition of the Old Bernheim facility. The transition of Ancient Age to Buffalo Trace. Wild Turkey loses its age statement. Beam introduces Knob Creek and the rest of the Small Batch Collection. The new Bernheim facility opens (where Heaven Hill would move seven years later, post-fire). 1992 was also the end of Beam bottling most that Old Grand-Dad, National Distillers juice - probably my all-time favorite profile. That’s a noteworthy year to be sure. All that shuffling accounted for widespread profile shifts for many beloved brands. Old Fitzgerald was just one of them.
Old Fitzgerald stopped being produced at Stitzel-Weller in 1992. That same year production shifted over to the New Bernheim Facility where Ed Foote (last MD at S-W) oversaw the transition for a few years. The bottle being reviewed was distilled in 1998 or earlier, just ahead of Heaven Hill purchasing the distillery along with the Old Fitzgerald brand. One thing I'm always looking for in New Bernheim products is what's going on with the peanut note. My least favorite bottlings from the distillery are heavy with peanut and it seems to get heavier with peanuts the younger the whiskey gets. We're off to a good start if we don't find any peanuts.
Nose: Very buttered and honeyed on the nose. Bit of pollen. Good amount of barrel char. No peanuts.
Flavors: There’s a pleasant oak presence top to bottom with this pour. Definitely drinks older than it did when it was discontinued a couple years ago. Palate offers a nice progression from honey crisp apples to cashews to menthol. The nutty note here was well integrated and less roasted than the peanut note usually is.
Palate Structure: More linear/angular and less deep than I would’ve guessed for an older BiB. While there’s complexity and clarity, it leans a little dry and flat for my palate. There is a brief spike of menthol to lift the palate. But that's not always my favorite bourbon note.
Alcohol Integration: Drinks a little hot and overproof.
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SAOS MGP Bourbon
Score: 5 (Acceptable) One of the reasons I dig 1990s-early 2000s bonded bourbon is they usually offer up a ton of candied notes. Probably something to do with where our national palates were at that particular culinary moment coupled with a surplus of choice barrels to select from. This is a much drier affair - driven by light fruit and menthol. It doesn't always handle its proof well. But it does offer up a pretty unique profile with the combo of honeyed and menthol notes. Still better than the Peanut-Bomb Old Fitz and J.W. Dant I was drinking in 2015.
10- Reevaluate My Budget
9 - Stash Two (If Able)
8 - Stash One (At The Right Price)
7 - Highly Recommend It To Strangers
6 - Solid - Above Average
5 - Acceptable For The Situation
4 - Not Vocally Complaining
3 - Wish I Was Drinking Something Else
2 - Nothing Nice To Say
1 - Drain Pour