Whenever the subject of Heaven Hill’s Old Fitzgerald line comes up, my fascination always remains with the fact that this company somehow is willing to market a bourbon with an age statement that is variable by such a huge degree. There are other limited release bourbons that fluctuate in terms of batch to batch, but for Old Fitzgerald to have one 8-year-old bourbon to its name in 2021, and a 19-year-old bourbon in 2022, is sheer madness. Surely one can’t really consider those two releases the same type of product, even if they share the same wheated bourbon mash bill and 100 proof (50% ABV) strength. Nor can you consider two products in the same family when one has an MSRP of $85, and the other an MSRP of $240. Right? It just makes sense.
I can only imagine the gaudy figures that this most recent Fall 2022 batch of Old Fitzgerald will no doubt fetch on the secondary market, or via the unscrupulous retailers who have made price gouging into something we all now experience at the register, rather than from resellers. As the oldest batch of Old Fitz yet released on the national market, this one is destined to capture headlines and whiskey geek imaginations. But can it stand up to all those years in the oak?
That’s always the question, of course, when limited releases start getting into this sort of rarefied air. We saw it earlier this year with the likes of Knob Creek 18 Year, and now we’re seeing it again via one of the crown jewels of Heaven Hill’s bourbon lineup. Will that extra time add to the experience of this Old Fitzgerald? Can anything really justify a $240 MSRP, and a secondary price of god only knows what?
Let’s get to tasting, and see for ourselves.
On the nose, the 19-year-old Old Fitzgerald Fall 2022 batch is redolent in deep, old oak tones, slightly musty and earthy, while also having no shortage of sweeter elements, especially hinting at nut-infused toffee. I’m getting vanilla, nutty cocoa nibs and hints of coconut, along with assertive wood and slightly resinous characteristics. One definitely gets a sense of all those years in the wood here, though they’re nicely tempered on the nose by sweeter impressions.
On the palate, though, the oak really starts to make itself felt in earnest. The central components here are big, spicy oak flavors and lots of baking spice, along with a more tart and puckering component also derived from the wood. There’s also sweetness of toffee and vanilla, suggesting pecan praline, but I find myself drawn back toward the slightly sour, oaky tang. There’s tannic dryness, but that’s not really what overtakes this Old Fitzgerald—it’s more the acidity of the wood itself. Granted, I do quite like the baking spice component, which has expressive notes of cinnamon, ginger and cardamom, twisted with chile pepper. But a minute after taking the sip, what I’m still largely tasting is tart oak on the tongue. No big surprise, at 19 years old, but it’s a note that the drinker will need to appreciate if they’re going to seek this one out.
All in all, I find that this Fall 2022 Old Fitzgerald isn’t quite as impeccably balanced as the 17-year-old expression from this spring. It may be that this is simply where the series hits a point of diminishing returns when it comes to its age statements, or perhaps Old Fitz will stun us all with a 20-year-old beauty this following spring. At the very least, releases like the 19-year-old reinforce the perception of this particular brand as an extreme luxury item, one that you’re sadly unlikely to come across in the wild. I find myself hoping that perhaps they’ll counterweight it with more Old Fitz releases such as the surprisingly excellent 8-year-old, if only to offer some continuing balance to the series.
Distillery: Heaven Hill
City: Bardstown, KY
Style: Straight bourbon whiskey
ABV: 50% (100 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $240 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.