Old Fitzgerald VVS 2024 (13 Year) Bourbon Review

Drink Reviews whiskey
Old Fitzgerald VVS 2024 (13 Year) Bourbon Review

In the last few years of writing copious numbers of spirit reviews for Paste, I’ve run across a good number of Old Fitzgerald expressions coming out of Heaven Hill. I was there when the brand transformed in the first place, from its bottom shelf, high-value bonded wheated bourbon version into the beautiful (but far pricier) decanter series that many whiskey geeks know and love today. But I’ve yet to personally see one quite like the new Old Fitzgerald VVS 2024, with which Heaven Hill is celebrating the brand itself.

Typically, Old Fitz can be found in two yearly allocations: the spring batch and the fall batch. In recent years, these have been designated by green labels and black labels, but sharp-eyed collectors may have also noticed a few expressions over the years bearing a deep red (the distillery says maroon, FYI) labels. These are the so-called “very very special” or VVS batches, of which there have only been two to date, in 2018 and 2020. The new Old Fitzgerald VVS 2024 is the third, bring chosen to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Heaven Hill acquiring the historic Bernheim Distillery and Old Fitzgerald brand in 1999.

The liquid inside this bottle is something particularly novel, and its origin goes beyond even what you would expect from the 13 year age statement. In reality, this batch was actually distilled in 1999 only months after the acquisition of the Bernheim Distillery by Heaven Hill. The spirit then spent 13 years in barrels and was emptied at 13 years old after being judged an exceptional example of the house wheated bourbon style. It was subsequently saved for a special occasion, and only now in 2024 has it been bottled. This release is intended solely for Kentucky and is available via the Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience in Bardstown, at the expectedly high price point of $230. That makes it only slightly less expensive than the fall 2022 expression that was 19 years old, but the additional novelty here makes the price easier to understand.

This one will understandably be hard to come by, to the point that I don’t believe there are actually any press images out there for it yet, forcing me to use an image of an earlier VVS Old Fitz release above. We do have the following label image, though:

So with all that said, let’s dive into what I hope is indeed a “very, very special” expression of Old Fitzgerald.

On the nose, the initial impressions here are of very deep caramel and baked apple butter fruitiness, spread over gently toasted wheat bread. There’s some wet oak here as well, with a slightly tangy impression, along with sweetened peanut butter, gingerbread and a little cocoa. Spice components of nutmeg and spicy oak also get played up considerably, and it’s easy to nose all of this given the very mild ethanol. Layers and spice and some leather make this feel like a particularly mature expression.

On the palate, these impressions are pretty much confirmed: The 2024 Old Fitzgerald VVS is a big, deep and oak-driven dram that really does stand out from other expressions the company has released to date. Heavy honey and caramel notes lead off, slathered over wheat toast, with stem ginger and spiced sugar. There’s a deep, mature oakiness split between the impression of barrel char (without astringency) and layers of baking spice. It’s a predominantly sweet profile, with just the occasional hint of drying tannin keeping it from reading too decadent. Repeat sips deep the impressions of rickhouse funk and some more earthy tones, even flashing some of the tobacco-type notes you might expect to find in the company’s older rye bourbons. Ethanol is again quite restrained, really allowing the mature nature of the spirit to shine through.

This whiskey is everything that Heaven Hill advertised it as: An exemplary batch of the company’s wheated bourbon mash bill, and a telling example of what they were probably tasting in the late 1990s when they were deciding to acquire the brand in the first place. It immediately becomes one of the most memorable bourbon releases of 2024 so far.

Distillery: Heaven Hill
City: Bardstown, KY
Style: Wheated Kentucky straight bourbon
ABV: 50% (100 proof)
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles, $230 MSRP

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident beer and liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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