Tag Archives: old fitzgerald

Old Crow Reserve

“Old Crow Reserve” probably sounds a little ridiculous to those who have had some experience with the standard Old Crow.  When I originally tasted that bourbon I was disappointed by its bland, unremarkable character, so it’s hard to imagine that whatever Beam has managed to “reserve” from their Old Crow line is going to be all that special.  In fact, I’m curious about their motivation in releasing this label.  Beam already has a full range of easy-to-find bourbons from Old Crow to Booker’s and everything in between, taking the Old Crow brand up a notch seems gratuitous.

I don’t mean to knock bottom-shelf bourbons here.  I’m a big believer that in the American whiskey world in particular price isn’t always a reliable indicator of quality.  The modestly priced Old Fitzgerald 1849 remains one of my favorites, and I’m sure there are plenty of folks who love their Old Crow.  Was there really someone thinking to himself “Gosh, if only this Old Crow were just a little bit better, but not as good as Jim Beam white label….”?  At least the financial risk of finding out whether it’s worth it is low.


– $14ish

– Unless straightbourbon.com misleads me, this is a Jim Beam product

– 86 proof (Old Crow original is 80)


I’m a sucker for black labels I think.  The dark background makes all the other elements pop that much more.  On top of that, the empty white of the regular Old Crow label just looks unfinished.  On the Reserve here, we see a black and gold pinstripe pattern overlaid by the standard bourbon descriptors: “Kentucky straight,” “original,” “sour mash,” and the like.  (It’s important to note here that Old Crow is named for the originator of the sour mash method.)  I do appreciate the red-lettered “86 PROOF” on the left side and the way it contrasts with the rest of the presentation; on the other hand, I think they could do a lot more with their crow logo than they are now.  Crows are such loaded signifiers: they’re harbingers of bad news, they gather in ‘murders’, they accompany witches and demons in pop culture.  They should leverage this.


There’s a lot more to the nose on this one that its unreserved sibling.  Beyond the clear char, there’s an element that I find difficult to describe, but the closest I can get is the smell of a dry pine plank after you’ve sanded it down for a few minutes: strong wood, but not resinous and not exactly oak.  So far so good.

On the tongue, I get a strong sweetness up front with touches of orange and honey.  This moves into a vanilla then quickly switches to charred oak and leaves a medium-dry and prominently woody finish.

Over all:

This is a significant improvement over the regular Old Crow.  It’s just one extra year in the barrel, but that does make a good amount of difference – in fact this verges on being overly woody in the end.  There aren’t any unpleasant flavors to it but it is lacking in some depth.  For the price, I’d say this is a decent choice.  I think I have to retract my earlier doubts about the purpose of this bourbon – in my book, as long as it tastes good and has a good quality-to-price ratio it’s worth having around.  Now if only they’ll replace regular Old Crow with this…


The American Hooch 2008 Gift Guide

I’ve gotten questions from many friends and co-workers about what bourbon they should buy for their friend/boyfriend/roommate for the holiday season.  This is always a difficult thing to judge since some of the best wiskies don’t always make for the classiest gift, but on the other hand many of the gift-like bottles aren’t the most original or demonstrative of taste.

With that in mind, here’s my American Hooch 2008 Gift Guide to help you navigate your social relationships with a properly chosen bottle of alcohol.

The Mantle Piece Bourbon

willettThis one is for that someone on your list who wants something to show off to folks stopping by over the holidays.  Willett Family Pot Still Reserve is certainly a fine tasting bourbon, with notes of butterscotch, cherry-sweetness, and honey, but it is most impressive in its profile.  Your receipient will not only be impressed with the pot still shaped bottle, but also the wonderfully gurgly noise it makes when you pour.  I wrote about it here.

This one might be a little tougher to find, but it will make an immediate visual impression.  It will also run you around $40.

Continue reading The American Hooch 2008 Gift Guide

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.


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


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.


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.