DSR – KY – 011: 1971 Old Fitzgerald Prime Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Company/Distillery: Stitzel-Weller Distillery
Location: Louisville, Kentucky
Mash Bill: Believed to be 70% Corn, 20% Wheat, and 10% Malted Barley
Age Statement: 7 Years Old
Proof/ABV: 86.8 Proof/43.4% ABV
Color & Viscosity: This 1971 Old Fitzgerald Prime presents light auburn in the glass. It offers a thin viscous line on the side of the tasting vessel. The viscous line quickly begins to form intermediate sized beads that develops into a thick lip.
Bottle Label Information:
“U.S. Internal Revenue”
“U.S. Internal Revenue”
“Bottle Stamp Series 112”
“Old Fitzgerald Prime”
“Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey”
“Old Fitzgerald Prime”
“Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey”
“86.8 Proof 4/5 Quart”
“This Whiskey is 7 Years Old”
“Distilled, Aged and Bottled by Stitzel Weller Distillery”
“City of Richwood, West Virginia Golden Anniversary”
Pictures: Visitor’s Center, Cranberry Glades; White Water Canoeing; Cherry River Navy; Cherry River Festival; Scenic Highway; Cherry Hill Country; Monongahela National Forest; Cranberry River, Famous Trout Fishing; Summit Lake; Lumber Jack; Coal Miner; Mountaineer Hall of Fame; Cogar Center; West Virginia State Seal.
Bottom: “Original Design from the Old Fitzgerald Collector’s Gallery, Stitzel Weller Distillery, Genuine Talisman Porcelain 1971”
“Old Fitzgerald Prime; Genuine TALISMAN Porcelain; From America’s oldest family Distillery”
“This handsome porcelain is a customer design from the Old Fitzgerald Prime Collector’s Gallery. For Connoisseurs who truly appreciate American culture and art, this lovely bottle should enhance in value with time.”
“The Bourbon in this ceramic is identical to the famous Old Fitzgerald Prime Bourbon, always available in its regular fifth packager. This 7 years old, 86.8 proof whiskey is delightfully smooth and mellow, and has a character unduplicated by any other Bourbon. 86.8 Proof, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Louisville, Ky. ESTAB. 1849”
The Stitzel-Weller Distillery was founded in 1933 as a result of a merger between W.L. Weller & Sons, a well known distributor, and A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery by partners Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr., Alex T. Farnsley, and Arthur Phillip Stitzel. The distillery would officially begin operations on Derby Day, May 4, 1935 – the same day Omaha would win the 1st leg of his American Triple Crown. The distillery would operate in a state-of-the-art facility, which under the watchful eye of master distiller Will McGill (1935-1952), would house over 200 employees, produce approximately 800,000 cases a year, and store about 300,000 aging barrels on-site. McGill would be followed by master distillers Andry J. Corcoran (1952-58), Roy Hawes (1958-71), and Woodrow Wilson. When the downturn in the whiskey market occurred in the late 60’s to early 70’s, Stitzel-Weller Distillery would be sold from the Van Winkle family to Norton-Simon.
Stitzel-Weller would become widely known for its unique wheat mash bills, a move that was quite different than the typical rye mash bills used by fellow distillers. Popular brands made by the distillery included W.L. Weller, Pappy Van Winkle, Old Weller, Rebel Yell, Cabin Still, and Old Fitzgerald.
Old Fitzgerald Prime Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The Old Fitzgerald brand dates back to 1870 when it was produced by John E. Fitzgerald at the Old Judge Distillery. The brand was mainly distributed to private clubs and rail lines before eventually being launched publicly. After the formation of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle would reformulate the recipe to include wheat rather than rye. This bottling of Old Fitzgerald Prime was released in 1971 and would have been distilled and barreled in 1964 while still under the watchful eye of Pappy Van Winkle.
How Did Rickhouse Ramblings Get This Bottle?
Early on in his whiskey journey (June 18, 2017 to be specific), when he still yearned for the excitement of the bottle hunt and the taste of taters, Mike would ask a hotel concierge in West Virginia to recommend the best liquor store near the hotel for him to do some bourbon hunting. As fate would have it, the concierge had come across a couple of filled and sealed decanters from an estate auction and decided to pick them up. After some pressing from Mike, and few rounds of uncomfortable negotiations, the concierge would agree to show Mike his collection. Armed with his father by his side, Mike would venture off to the concierge’s apartment and agree to purchase the decanter for his budding collection. If you’re interested in the details of how much was paid for these decanters, keep waiting because Mike remains tight lipped about the pricing at the moment. However, we are glad he made that purchase and was willing to donate them for a review for Rickhouse Ramblings!
Tasting Date/Vessel: March 1, 2022 – Neat in a Glencairn glass
Christian: My first impression of this 1971 Old Fitzgerald Prime Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a surprisingly heavy dose of flowery petals. This resembles what I imagine to be a delicate lilac perfume. This floral component quickly transitions to nice ambrosial aromatics. Dense cake batter reminiscent of pound cake (sweet cream, vanilla, and a touch of almonds) are all present on this nose. A gentle swirl and return to my nose allows a butteriness to sneak through in the form of rich homemade butterscotch icing. A brief warning: be careful not to nose too deep or be prepared for a stiff tickle of the nose and a copious punch of ethanol.
Mike: With the glass just sitting on the table in front of me, waves of floral notes explode from the glass. It has a soft perfume essence to the aroma. Diving in, my nose pushes past the perfume scents to detect browned butter and sticky brown sugar glaze. Notes of cinnamon rolls and cake batter surface with hints of sweet buttercream icing. A gentle swirl melds the bountiful sweet aromas together with an overlay of old charred oak.
Christian: This bourbon has a nice body that is silky in texture and leaves a thin coating on your lips and tongue. Right off the bat, I notice a punch of authentic and old well oiled leather. A second pass really opens up notes of toasted brown sugar, fresh Madagascar vanilla bean, and just a touch of cherry cola syrup (admittedly I did not get this note the first tasting, but boy am I getting it now upon a second tasting). Finally, I notice a slight woodiness to this, not like seasoned oak, but more in line with the flavor of a Popsicle stick.
Mike: This Old Fitz Prime is very sweet on the palate up front. Leather notes appear quickly as this whiskey dries out mid-palate. I start to pick up hints of cinnamon roll icing indicative of that perfect bite of a Cinnabon cinnamon roll that is overly iced. Soft notes of fresh sliced golden delicious apples linger on the palate.
Christian: Old Fitzgerald Prime is rather dry in the finish. The pour is so smooth and approachable with a short finish. You are left with a nice warming sensation on your tongue, but it does not burn way down deep like some. Leather again is the dominate flavor profile but it is followed by a punch of whiskey soaked oak barrel stave. Again, I am picking up just a touch of butteriness that is accompanied with a sweet cinnamon apple component. I know this is probably my mind playing with me, but I honestly feel like this pour tastes old or vintage – in a good way!!
Mike: This whiskey offers a not so surprising gentle finish. It is soft and effortless, leaving a muted scratchiness in your throat. A pleasant sweetness lingers along with a delicate essence of old oak.
Christian: What we have in this 1971 Old Fitzgerald Prime is an experience…an opportunity to share something that many others on this journey just won’t get to taste. No, it’s not Pappy 23 year, but it was distilled and bottled under the watchful eye of the legend himself. Surprisingly, this bourbon is not as balanced as I was expecting. An absolute gem of a nose is followed by a traditional yet subdued mouth that is a little void in complexity. The finish is so gentle, smooth, and approachable that any level of bourbon fan can appreciate it. I just want a little bit more in the overall taste profile.
This is probably sacrilege – is it perfect? No. Is it the best I ever had? No. But that is okay. This is the opportunity to enjoy a bourbon whiskey made way before I was born, in the traditions and ways of times long past. And for me, as a history buff, that counts for a lot!
Rating: 3.38 Rickhouses
Mike: The nose is bountiful and fragrant and draws the drinker in like a mythical siren. The overall flavors are simple yet balanced. There isn’t much to say about the finish due impart to the bottling proof of 86.8, which I assume has a great deal to do with the general sweetness presented in this offering. This almost has a cordial like quality to it which isn’t necessarily bad, just a tad inadequate in its bourbon profile.
All that being said, there is something very picturesque about stumbling on this sealed decanter of Stitzel-Weller history and being able to share this with my friend. I feel hip and cool, like I’m drinking all the intricacies a vintage store has to offer; the smell of that old leather jacket, old albums, Bakelite phones, and antique luggage. Take all that, blend it together and drink in all that nostalgia. This doesn’t make me cooler than you, but I feel cooler and that feels good.
Rating: 3.00 Rickhouses