Everything you need to know about the most popular bourbon whiskey on shelves today. This time: Old Fitzgerald Bourbon, a 150-year-old bourbon brand with a confusing past.
What is Old Fitzgerald Bourbon?
A very old bourbon brand. Launched in 1870, the label has a fanciful (and likely apocryphal) origin story like most whiskey brands. Today, it's best known as a super-premium wheated bourbon — a bourbon that uses wheat instead of rye as the flavoring grain in the mashbill — that comes in a gorgeous crystal decanter. The brand has gone through several different owners in the last 150 years, with family-owned Heaven Hill Distillery currently holding the rights to it. For the most part, the whiskey is aged between 8 and 14 years. Because of its affiliation with the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, the Van Winkle family (more on that shortly) and somewhat lower price point, it's often thought of as a more affordable version of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.
Though most think of Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond when they hear the name Fitzgerald, it's worth mentioning a lower proof, far less premium version of the spirit called Old Fitzgerald Prime that you can buy for around $15 in a handful of states. Heaven Hill does not allocate advertising or marketing budget toward it, though, and it's not particularly notable for any reason other than the name on the bottle.
Who makes Old Fitzgerald Bourbon?
The brand was sold by its original owners to Julian P. Van Winkle during Prohibition. Once Van Winkle's supply of whiskey (which included stock from W.L. Weller & Sons Stitzel Distillery) for medicinal purposes deteriorated, he and Arthur Stitzel elected to use what was allegedly an old family recipe to replenish their stocks. That recipe substituted rye for wheat, which is the most commonly accepted origin story for the wheated bourbon craze nowadays (remember: Pappy is wheated bourbon).
Fast-forward 70 years and the Shapira family-owned Heaven Hill Distillery bought the brand and production rights and has been making it ever since.
Where can you buy Old Fitzgerald Bourbon?
The whiskey is released in batches twice a year — once in the fall and again in the spring. Thus you're most likely to catch bottles at the liquor store around those releases.
The best way to land a bottle (legally) is to build a relationship with your local liquor store by frequenting the store, talking to employees and asking about allocated product delivery windows. If you're a good customer you have a better opportunity, it's as simple as that. Cold calling liquor stores in your area is usually frowned upon, though we've heard stories of the shotgun approach working.
Your last option is resorting to whiskey's online grey markets (which are really just black markets, because peer-to-peer liquor sale is illegal). Read more here.
How much does Old Fitzgerald cost?
Depending on when the bottle you're shopping for was released and how old the liquid is, you're likely looking at $250 to $500 per bottle. It's worth noting that some bottles sell for well above this range, especially those old enough to have been made at at Stitzel-Weller.