Heaven Hill’s packaging for the Old Fitzgerald lineup is reason enough to buy this bottle. As backwards as that sounds to a person who is serious about bourbon, it’s very honest. If they would have put Mellow Corn Bottled in Bond in this decanter, I guarantee it would’ve sold just as well. But this isn’t Mellow Corn, the bourbon inside of this very attractive bottle is the wheated bourbon mashbill from Heaven Hill. It is the 5th release in a series that is supposed to span 10 separate bottlings of various aged bourbon. Aged for 15 years and bottled-in-bond, the age statement is enough to generate a lot of excitement. But the proof on the other hand, maybe not as much.
In bourbon communities, Heaven Hill’s wheated mashbill always seems to take a backseat to the king of wheated bourbons: Buffalo Trace. The complexity of fruits, sweetness and baking spices make the entire Weller lineup stand head and shoulders above the rest. Heaven Hill’s wheated bourbon mashbill, on the other hand, may suffer a bit from what appears to be the same yeast that they use in their ryed mashbill. This translates into a nuttiness that’s not typically a trait of other wheated mashbills.
But with Old Fitzgerald, will age and special care in selecting the barrels help to correct this? Or is this lineup a giant cash grab? I recently obtained a sample of the 15 year release and wanted to try it out for myself. I sampled this neat and in a Glencairn.
Nose: At only 100 proof, I’m surprised by the depth and intensity of old, seasoned oak, sweet caramel and biggest of all, warm brownies! I do find a bit of that peanut butter scent that I typically get with post-fire HH products, but it’s not distracting. I am enjoying the amount of vanilla I can smell in here, which is becoming a trait I find more and more in older bourbons, but the real surprise is this toasted coconut smell I keep running across. I have never picked up on that in any other HH product before.
Palate: A ridiculously mellow entry sip, almost like I’m drinking oaky cream. Literally no initial bite of spice at all. The oak and sweetness was one of the best iterations for something not-barrel-proof I’ve had in a while. There are some fun spice traits that start to develop like baking spices and a little bit of black peppercorn. Cherries and dark chocolate play along with rich pipe tobacco to make this a really rich and flavorful sip. Just like the toasted coconut scent on the nose, I find one strange trait hiding within the palate that I just can’t shake, but it’s similar to a little bit of grape skin. Strange!
Finish: The finish is probably the best part of the whole experience. There’s a delicious taste of chocolate and tobacco leaf with some very balanced drying oak. I am picking up on a very thick and jammy orange marmalade as well, which really kicks up the enjoyability a notch.
I am not going to lie, I did not taste this Old Fitz 15 year in a vacuum. I had read the reviews many months prior to this that all talked about how this Old Fitz is the best one yet. But after drinking this, I would absolutely agree with those assessments.Much like a very finely tuned bottle of 12-15 year MGP bourbon, the richness and sweetness take off as the barrel hits that sweet spot. These barrels were definitely in their sweet spot when it was bottled.
I like to use automotive terms when comparing my whiskey and I would say that this one was very much like a Grand Touring sedan that is confident and refined in everything it does. It may not be the most brash or have all of the bells and whistles, but it’s enjoyable and poised every time you get into it. This may be one of the best, most accessible bourbons at or above 15 years old that has been sold in the past 12 months. Well done, Heaven Hill.
1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)
2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it
3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)
4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)
5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)
6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)
7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)
8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)
9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)
10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)
*Bourbon Culture is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.