OLD FITZGERALD BOTTLED IN BOND
Spring 2021 Release
MASH BILL – 68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% malted barley
PROOF – 100
AGE – 8 years
DISTILLERY – Heaven Hill
PRICE – $87
REBEL YELL 10 YEAR SINGLE BARREL
Barrel #5008656 dated 02/06
MASH BILL – undisclosed, though it’s generally known to be Heaven Hill’s wheated mash bill: 68% Corn, 20% Wheat, 12% Malted Barley
PROOF – 100
AGE – 10 years
DISTILLERY – Rebel Yell Distillery (aka Luxco sourcing from Heaven Hill)
PRICE – $81
How could I resist?
When I uncorked this Rebel Yell 10 Year, barreled in 02/06 and bottled some 13 years later, I was blown away. It was notably better than the previous Rebel Yell 10 Year I’d had, as well as my memory of its cousin, the Old Fitzgerald 14 Year Bottled in Bond. Both of those were good, but not quite worth their respective prices overall.
When I uncorked this Old Fitz 8 Year, it took me immediately to the Rebel Yell. I tried them side by side. Indeed, quite similar—not a surprise given they share so many stats in common: origin, mash bill, proof, even price. The Rebel leaned more into the cherry notes of the flavor profile, and the Old Fitz into the cakey dessert notes. At ~$80+ neither is cheap. But as a specialty pour they’re within reach, and taste as good or better than many more remotely shelved unicorns one might think of.
A formal comparison was in order. Not to decide which is “best.” I can’t see the relevance of that question, given both bottles are now long since off shelves. But as an exploration of the experience offered by this mash bill and proof combo, and in an ongoing effort to sort out which limited releases out there are truly worth the pursuit, a comparison is worthwhile.
So here we are, just over seven weeks after uncorking the Old Fitz and three months after uncorking the Rebel Yell. I’m five+ pours into the former and over two-thirds into the latter. These brief notes were taken using both traditional Glencairns and my favorite antique tumbler, which often does well with densely flavored bourbons like these.
BOTH – a nice russet rusty orange, the Old Fitz tinting oh so slightly lighter
OLD FITZ – baked cinnamon, toasted brown sugar, thick caramel, cream, thick raw oak smoothly sanded, maple bar donut, faint cherry syrup as in a cherry pie
REBEL – the same, minus the maple bar and cherry, and with an additional toasted honey note brightening things slightly
OLD FITZ – cherry baked in a pie, caramel drizzled on pie crust, cinnamon and baking spices, then the oak arrives in a wave at the end
REBEL – dry and tannic oak, dry cinnamon and baking spices, a subtle cherry note wafting in toward the end
OLD FITZ – the oak predominates here, backed up by caramel and coffee, some very dark chocolate, all fading fairly quickly, leaving a subtle dark warmth to linger
REBEL – leaves a prickly warmth, with refined tannic oak and a soft baked cherry note
BOTH – Very close in all respects, with the Old Fitz slightly lighter in color but darker and sweeter in flavor, and the Rebel Yell slightly darker in color yet a notch brighter and drier in flavor
BOTH – For sure
These are very close. Just drinking rather than formally tasting them, I’d likely not clock the differences. But with some attention, the differences are clear and can be summed up with this lighter/darker dichotomy. In direct line with that is the drier/sweeter dichotomy. Very generally speaking, dry aromas and flavors do tend to brighten a whiskey, whereas sweeter flavors can darken the experience. These two bourbons epitomize this phenomenon.
As Luxco has been tweaking the Rebel line, adding limited release 12 Year Single Barrels and their Rebel Distiller’s Collection picks, these 10 year SiBs seem less common than they once were. Not that they were ever ubiquitous. But just a few years ago one could often find a bottle or two sitting on the odd corner store shelf. The price was always good for the specs, with the standard 10-Year label often slapped on much older bourbon bottled inside—like WhistlePig’s “10 year” SiBs that likewise often feature even much older whiskey, a great bargain for whiskey fans!
The Old Fitz Bottled in Bond line is a twice-annual release, priced according to age at roughly $10 per year. For that price, this 8 Year release is a great deal. Not being a single barrel like the Rebel Yell, the Old Fitz blend may include older bourbons. Perhaps this is what makes these two so alike, and this Old Fitz release worth the price. Whereas the Old Fitz 14 Year, for example, didn’t quite justify it’s $175 price tag for me. I enjoyed it, for sure. It’s just there are other options with similar flavor profiles that are as pleasing but for less money.
So keep an eye out for those Rebel Yell 10 year releases. They’re single barrels, so, no guarantees. But the price makes the gamble worthwhile. And if an Old Fitz BiB aged one-digit comes around and no pirate has jacked up the price, give it a go. It’s good bourbon, and the fancy bottle can make a great decanter once you’ve downed the final pour.