husband, father, whisky lover, blogger, freelance whisky writer, and head of the New Jersey Whiskey Society & leading the USBG NJ efforts...currently the New Jersey Whisky Ambassador for Diageo & therefore leave the recent writing duties to guest bloggers, primarily that Bourbon loving fella named Gerard

average Joes on a whisky journey...all views are our own

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Very Old Fitzgerald 8YRS Old BIB - Barreled in 1959 - Bottled in 1967

Every now and then an opportunity presents itself, and it is up to the individual to make a decision.

Such an opportunity presented itself last Thursday at CatherineLombardi in New Brunswick.  Once again, Francis Schott had handpicked another fine bottling to share.  I already have a great deal of respect for many of his previous selections.  Virtually all of his Single Malt Independent Bottles have been stellar, and when he does venture into Bourbon, I want to be there!

As is customary with the Spirits Project (which I have written about before) a few shades prior to 6:30pm, Francis appeared with bottle in hand.

Not just any bottle mind you, but a bottle older than most of the people in the bar!  Somehow, it was still encased in its original packaging and was breathtaking to behold.  It is not every tasting when you see the bottle itself being passed around for viewing pleasure!  Needless to say, the group that had gathered was excited and singing the praises of this spirit the whole time.

Francis is clearly a people person.  (an essential characteristic of anyone in the hospitality business)  He worked the room with a variation of anecdotes and factual data in his classic disarming way.  Watching him pour each ounce out behind the bar, while happily entertaining everyone, really makes you feel at home.  It’s that personal touch that leads to such a great atmosphere here.  Combine all of this with bartender Chris on hand.  Chris answered any questions thrown his way with wisdom and ease, and his  stunning shaking style kept us all entertained.

Well, that’s great Joe, but what about the freakin’ Bourbon!?!?!?!?

First, as it was explained in Francis’ email:

This bottle of Very Old Fitzgerald 8-Year Bourbon was barreled in 1959 and bottled-in-bond in 1967.  The label says "Original Sourmash by Stitzel Weller Distillery."  Now we know that the master distiller of that time was grandfather of Julian Van Winkle, who is now president of the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery.  Here is why this is important.

Julian Van Winkle, III is the third generation Van Winkle to be involved in the Kentucky Bourbon whiskey business. His grandfather, who was known as "Pappy", started the family in the business back in the 1870s when he was a salesman for the W.L. Weller & Sons liquor wholesalers in Louisville. He later built and was president of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, which opened its doors on Derby day, 1935. Their prominent brands were W.L.Weller, Rebel Yell, Cabin Still and Old Fitzgerald bourbons.

Julian's father, Julian, Jr., operated the distillery until the family sold it in 1972. At that time Julian, Jr. started the Old Rip Van Winkle brand with some of the whiskey he made while he was at Stitzel-Weller. Julian joined his dad in 1977. Julian continued to operate the business after his father's death in 1981.

Julian now has his whiskey produced under his grandfather's original wheated bourbon recipe
, and ages and bottles the Old Rip Van Winkle brands in Frankfort, Kentucky.  His whiskeys are the highest rated Bourbon whiskeys PERIOD. The 20-year old "Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve" has received a rating of 99 by the Wine Enthusiast magazine, and good luck finding it.  It sells on the internet for hundreds or thousands of dollars.  We only get a few bottles a year (and we get everything).

So what we have here tonight, ladies and gentlemen, is not Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon, which would be special enough.  We have what Pappy Van Winkle is based on!  We have bourbon history here ladies and gentlemen! 

In 2001 Julian's son Preston joined the business with his dad. He is the fourth Van Winkle to sell these premium bourbon and rye whiskeys.  I wonder if the Pappy Van Winkle line will change the name someday to Grandpappy Van Winkle!

Tasting Notes:
Appearance:  Amber

Nose:  Shockingly fresh, vanilla pods, light fruits

Palate:  Silk, stunning, vanilla & oak, very floral now, fruity, heather

Finish:  No burn, just love, thick & rich vanilla ice cream meets fresh cut flowers


This bourbon was so floral my body was telling me to take more Zyrtec.  Wowza…I am almost speechless! (rare)  This is about as close to the ‘Holy Grail’ I have come with Bourbon.  Really stellar stuff.  There was not a single aspect that I could find that disappointed me.  I even reached the point where I wanted to try and unearth an imperfection, but alas, I could not.  Absolutely stunning!  I believe I have heard that they are re-opening the Stitzel Weller distillery.  Man, I truly hope that someone kept notes on how they made this juice, because it is wonderful!

Score:  95

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