Very Xtra Old Fitzgerald 1959 10 Year Old Bot.1969 Glass Pack
Very Xtra Old Fitzgerald 1959 Bottled in Bond 10 Year Old 100 Proof / 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.
This is the 10 year old Very Xtra Old Fitzgerald, distilled at Stitzel-Weller in 1959 and bottled in 1969. These Van Winkle era bottlings from Stitzel-Weller are incredibly sought after, making the “A Collector’s Item” text that often appeared on the shoulder label a particularly astute piece of foresight.
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 1947, 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 invested 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 shut 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.