Old Fitzgerald '1849' 8 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon 1978 / Stitzel-Weller
Originally registered as "Jno. E. Fitzgerald," the Old Fitzgerald brand was devised by S.C. Hebst in 1870. Hebst was a rectifier by trade (using grain neutral spirit with colouring and flavourings to make "whiskey"), but he also had a passion for sourcing high quality barrels of pot still bourbon and rye, which he bottled as Jno. E. Fitzgerald. When the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 was passed, rectified whiskey fell out of favour and Hebst went into the distilling business, purchasing a distillery which he named Old Judge after his best-selling flagship brand. Old Judge did not survive Prohibition however, and Hebst sold the Old Fitzgerald brand for just $10,000 to a former customer, a certain Julian 'Pappy' Van Winkle, who was sourcing label for his new Stitzel-Weller venture. Van Winkle had a near-religious belief in the importance of quality above all else in the bourbon he produced and under his guidance, Old Fitzgerald became and remains to this day, one of the most sought-after and respected labels in American whiskey. Stitzel-Weller was eventually shut down by United Distillers, and as their successor, Diageo, sold the Old Fitzgerald brand was sold to current owners, Heaven Hill.
While under his management, 'Pappy' Van Winkle refused to bottle Old Fitzgerald at anything less than the domestic requirement of 100 proof, set out by the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897. When he stepped back from management in 1964 however, the board put pressure on Julian II to meet the market demand for a lighter style product, and Old Fitzgerald Prime was launched later that year. This label was introduced in the early 1970s and is named 1849 after the year in which W.L. Weller & Sons was founded. This is the 8 year old Stitzel-Weller version, bottled in 1978.
The Stitzel-Weller company was officially established in 1933 at the repeal of National Prohibition in the US. It was the result of a merger between the A. Ph. Stitzel distillery and its biggest customer, W.L. Weller & Sons. The Stitzel-Weller distillery opened on Kentucky Derby day in 1935, and quickly developed a reputation for its high quality wheated bourbon, and its main brands were Old Weller, Old Fitzgerald and Cabin Still. The original ownership was shared between Alex T. Farnsley, Arthur Philip Stitzel and Julian Van Winkle. The former passed away in 1941 and 147, respectively, leaving the Van Winkle family as the sole heirs to the business. 'Pappy' died in 1965, having handed the reigns to his son, Julian II the year prior, who ran it until 1972 when the board of directors forced him to sell it to the Norton-Simon subsidiary, Somerset Imports. When they were bought over by the American arm of Scottish distillers, DCL, its subsequent iteration inverted heavily in bourbon. So much so in fact, that their newly rebuilt Bernheim distillery had such capacity that Stitzel-Weller was rendered surplus to requirements. It was closed down in 1992. Still part of the Diageo portfolio, it has never re-opened and instead now houses the visitor experience for their Bulleit brand.
We would recommend viewing/close inspection prior to placing any bids. If this is not an option and you have questions beyond the offered description and images, please contact us for a more in-depth condition report. Otherwise lots will be sold as seen in the images.
Please note: Due to the various ages of bottles and their seals, condition of liquid is at the buyer's discretion and no claim can be lodged against failure/leakage in transit.