View Full Version : Herbst Old Fitz Mashbill question
Just curious as to whether anyone knows (or can make a reasonable guess) what the mashbill was for the S. C. Herbst incarnation of Old Fitzgerald.
In particular I am curious as to whether John Fitzgerald or S. C. Herbst had made it as a wheated bourbon, or if that was Pappy's doing when he took over the brand. (My guess has always been that Weller was a wheat bourbon distillery and that PVW made his Old Fitz accourding to the recipe he learned from Weller, and that most likely the earlier Fitzes were rye rather than wheat.)
It just so happens that my sister, Sally Van Winkle Campbell, has just written a book on the history of "Pappy" and the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. In the book, she describes the Fiztgerald brand name as coming from a man named John E. Fitzgerald who worked on the premisis of the Old Judge Dsistillery in Frankfort, where Old Fitz was first made. He was the keeper of the keys to the bonded warehouses. He had a favorite group of barrels in each warehouse which contained the best whiskey. Mr. S. Charles Herbst of Milwaukee who owned the distillery, named this "good" whiskey, John E. Fitzgerald. It was produced on a special sour mash formula for exclusive trade, steamship lines, railroads and private clubs. I'm guessing that it was or
I'm very much looking forward to hearing more about your sister's book. Is there a publication date?
Chuck, the book is just out now. She did an incredible job with pictures and digging up history on our family distillery.
Check out my web site to see about ordering information;
John sent me the review copy, and it is gorgeous. A good-looking book, well-written, and a slice of life from Limestone Lane. Especially that picture of you in short pants!
Great book, she should be proud, and you should too.
Hirsch Reserve 16 YO: Real Pennsylvania Bourbon
The following was sent to me via email from Michael Veach, who is unfortunately prevented from logging in to our board by a firewall.
And I quote:
"I spent five years as archivist at United Distillers and still work with the Oscar Getz Museum of whiskey History on weekends.
While at United Distillers, one of the collections in their archives
was the Julian Van Winkle files from befroe prohibition till about 1937.
The bulk dates were 1920-1934. One of the items in the collection was a
contrcat from about 1908 (I am a bit fuzzy to the exact date but it was
about 1908) in which W. L. Weller and Sons contracts with A. Ph. Stitzel
distillery to make them some bourbon. The mash bill for this bourbon was
for a rye recipe bourbon. I always argued that this meant the firm of
W.L. Weller was not the origin of the wheat recipe as United Distillers
wanted to claim but came from some other place. My personal belief was
that it came from A. Ph. Stitzel but it possible that it came from Old
Fitzgerald. I have never had any pre-prohibition Old Fitzgerald or
Stitzel bourbon so I can not say for sure which one it was, if indeed it
was not something Van Winkle, Farnsley and Stitzel created after they
Mike Veach "
I have nothing to add to what Mike wrote. I'm just chiming in because I know Mike pretty well and can vouch for him. He is a serious and rigorous historian. He won't say anything unless he has ironclad, contemporary sources to back it up.
Can anybody address whethere the Old Fitz mashbill has changed through the years after the Van Winkle family got out of the business?
I don't know if the mash bill has stayed exactly the same, but the mash bill has continued to have wheat instead of rye as the flavor grain. When Stitzel-Weller was closed in 1992, production moved to the then new Bernheim distillery, then owned by United Distillers. Heaven Hill bought that distillery when they bought the Old Fitzgerald brand and it continues to be made there using wheat.
I just found a 1/10 pint of Old Fitz dated 1950 and am so tempted to just open this darn thing and taste it. Kinda cute, though, so I may just look at it for a while and contemplate what life was like with the presence of a Pappy around.
The mashbill for Old Fitzgerald has changed over the years. While the Van Winkle family owned the distillery it was a wheat recipe with a barrel proof of about 107. When the family was forced to sell the distillery the new owners kept it a wheat recipe but the barrel proof inched its way up. In the mid 1980's they also reduced the amount of malt used and added enzymes to aid fermentation. The result is that you can tell a real difference between a Van Winkle distilled Old Fitzgerald/Cabin Still/W L Weller bourbon distilled before the mid 70's and a product distilled when the distillery closed in the early 90's. There is even a bigger difference when comparing the products with wheated bourbon made at Bernheim or some other distillery. I recently drank some W L Weller Special Reserve at D Marie's that was made at Buffalo Trace and aged in the brick warehouses. I found it to be bland lacking in the vanilla and caramel toffee taste that I have always found in Weller Special Reserve. I let my friends try a sip and we all agreed that its lack of taste made us think of Basil Hayden, a product that I refer to as "Brown Vodka".
If you ever have a chance to pick up a bottle of real Van Winkle bourbon, do so! I never pass up a chance to buy this old bourbon. I recently picked up a 1.75ml of Old Fitzgerald Bonded bottled in 1980 at a liquor store in Maryland. Excellent bourbon and at a great price. I would rather have this 5 yo bourbon than many of the expensive "top shelf" products bottled today.
On the good side of all of this, Julian is working with Buffalo Trace to reproduce the old family recipe at their distillery. I just hope he finds some good iron clad warehouses to age it in so that we can truly enjoy a great bourbon again.
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