Old Fitzgerald 1849

My apologies.  It’s been a few weeks since I’ve been able to get around to blogging here.  The first delay was on account of going to a Bulleit tasting at the Brandy Library (it got a little rowdy for the BL) and the second delay was from me being off in Germany last week where bourbon is not a priority for the locals.

Now that I’m back, I’ll try instituting a new section to the regular posts, a “Stats” section which will list price range, proof, and maker – thanks for the idea, Dave!

First up on my return: Old Fitzgerald 1849.  On my last trip to Lenell’s, I specifically asked for something from the lower end of the price-scale.  Both my wallet and my instincts were telling me that I’d been focusing a bit too heavily on $30+ bottles and it was time to look a little lower.  I’d had good experience with the Old Grand-Dad Bonded, so surely there were other gems among this, the everyman’s liquor.  I think it was Ingrid there who recommended OF1849.

Before tasting, I did some quick internet-research and found that you can’t go very far without coming across accolades for OF1849 as a bourbon with a high quality-to-price ratio.  These are high stakes that were set up for the product.  I hoped it would stand up to them.

Stats:

  • Under $20
  • 90 Proof
  • Made by Heaven Hill

Presentation:

During my research I was particularly trying to find out where the 1849 date originated.  It turns out that it’s from the founding date of W.L. Weller & Sons, the previous owner of the brand.  Originally it may have been called Weller 1849, but subsequently changed by Heaven Hill.

The labeling is nothin if not complex.  It follows a black/gold/red color scheme and aligns its text to a number of different verticals.  The sadly obligatory block-o’-text sits on the top right corner of the front label (usually this is found on the back) and the date is adorned with odd agrarian flourishes.  Despite, or almost because of this the over all effect is not that OF1849 is trying too hard to be old-timey, but that they merely stopped trying to affect any specific presence a number of decades ago.  It’s not trying too hard, it just stopped trying – and I like this. [Update: same bottle as W.L. Weller Antique...]

Sure, it’s not something that jumps out at you from the shelf, but its uncool aesthetic makes it come closer to that ever-desirable “authenticity”.  If you needed any further proof of the uncynical design choices, look at the bottom of the label where it declares in the most unironic of phrases: “Distilled and aged expressly for [line break] Connoisseurs of Fine Bourbon.”  Excellent.

Tasting:

Old Fitzgerald 1849 has one of the strongest open-bottle-whiffs of anything I’ve tasted so far.  As soon as you crack that plastic cap, you receive a distinct scent of freshly-picked apples.  After pouring it, the apples continue, but are accompanied by mowed-grass, corn, and a distant mint – simple but pleasant.

On tasting OF1849 was not as smooth as I’d expexted, exploding onto the tongue.  This develops, however into caramel apples, some oak, popcorn, and tres leches cake.  In other words, this is certainly sweet.  The popcorn which develops in the middle adds an interesting contrast to the rest of the swirl.  There’s also quite a nice mouth-feel to it and a spicy-to-clean finish.

Over all:

I have to admit, what they say about Old Fitzgerald 1849 is right.  This is a damn good bourbon for less than $20.  While not as prototypical as Old Grand-Dad, there’s plenty to it to keep you interested that more expensive choices lack.  Well done.

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3 responses to “Old Fitzgerald 1849

  • The American Hooch 2008 Gift Guide « American Hooch

    [...] Tight on cash this season but still want to impress with a damn fine bourbon?  Have no fear, you’ve chosen the right liquor to give as a gift this year.  Bourbon can be expensive but it remains unpretentious and unrecognized enough to crank out some very fine stuff below $20/bottle.  Old Fitzgerald 1849 is an excellent example.  It carries the heft, complexity, and quality of a much more expensive label – but it will not impress the folks who think that price equals quality. I wrote about it here. [...]

  • Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey « American Hooch

    [...] line of beers, so when I stopped by Downtown a few weeks ago to stock up on some of my usuals, I was intrigued when I saw Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey. It makes perfect sense that successful [...]

  • George Nikas

    I worked in my family’s liquor store in the early 70’s where I first was introduced to Old Fitz 1849.
    As I recall at that time it was a little higher proof, 92.something or 94.something I forget which and it had a cork stopper. It even came in pint and 1/2 pint bottles the same shape as the fifths and also had a cork stopper.

    I believe at that time it was owned by the Stitzel Weller company. On the back of the label it had this written, “We make the finest bourbon at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always the finest bourbon”.

    I thought that was a pretty cool thing to say. My recollection is that it was smoother back then almost like honey and it absorbed into the tongue.

    It is still quite good and at the price it is hard to beat, it is just hard to find. I have been able to special order it in my area as it is carried by a local distributor, but I never see it stocked on any shelves.

    I just hope that it is not old stock and will run out soon.

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