Consider the coveted unicorn whiskey and it’s supposed worth—Pappy Van Winkle, Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, Michter’s 25, et al. There’s also a second tier—not quite Pegasus level, rather just regular old horned horses of whiskey that are often quite good even if they don’t achieve mythical levels of fame. Heaven Hill’s Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond bourbon fits into this latter category, but the spring 2023 release is definitely a covet-worthy whiskey.
Heaven Hill is best known for its widely available bourbons—Evan Williams and Elijah Craig are affordable and dependable whiskeys that rise above the whiskey fray. Then there are the highfalutin expressions like Parker’s Heritage Collection, Heaven Hill Heritage Collection, and the whiskey in question, Old Fitzgerald. This bourbon is released twice a year, in the fall and spring (true, this year’s spring edition is arriving closer to the start of fall). Heaven Hill acquired the brand in 1999, and continued to produce it as a wheated bourbon (meaning wheat is used instead of rye as the flavoring grain). Old Fitz got a major upgrade in 2018 with a fancy crystal decanter, the change to a biannual release, and the bottled-in-bond designation.
A quick reminder that bottled in bond means the whiskey is at least four years old, exactly 100 proof, and the product of one distillery and one distilling season. Old Fitz is usually bottled at more than twice the minimum age requirement, reaching a full 19 years for the fall 2022 release. That’s pushing the flavor limits of bourbon, a style of whiskey that can definitely become overly oaky and tannic after that long inside a barrel suffering through Kentucky’s hot, humid summers (even hotter at the upper level of warehouses) and chilly winters. The new spring 2023 release, however, is a 10-year-old bourbon, a sensible age statement that will probably still command nonsensical prices on the secondary market, especially considering that you can find similarly aged bourbons for less than $100.
The thing is, this bourbon is really good. There is some sweet honey and vanilla on the nose to start. The palate has just enough oak, but does not go overboard, and layers of flavors follow: creme brulee, milk and dark chocolate, molasses, brown sugar, ripe plum, peach, and just a hint of spice on the finish. You might balk at this idea given the limited availability and price of this bourbon, but go ahead and use this in an Old Fashioned if you want, it’ll be worth it. Or maybe just sip it, that certainly seems more rational. Just drink it however you want, if you bought a bottle you’ve earned that right.
The SRP for Old Fitzgerald Spring 2023 edition is $140, but that’s a fantasy. A quick look online reveals past expressions ranging from $300 to $1,000, depending on the year. So is this bourbon worth it? That’s really a question only you can answer, but rest assured that the quality of this new whiskey is very, very high. In the case of this particular Old Fitz release, quality actually corresponds with hype.
- 100: Worth trading your first born for
- 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
- 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram
- 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
- 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
- Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this