The Old Judge Distillery was initially built in Mercer County Kentucky in the 1880s and continued operation until a fire destroyed it in the mid-1890s. Instead of rebuilding on the site, the owners rebuilt Old Judge not far from Frankfort, Kentucky. This location continued operation and was purchased by Milwaukee businessman S. C. Herbst in 1904.
Old Judge Whiskeys
Located on Benson Creek, an early brand produced on site was Benson Springs. Other brands included Old Judge, Clifton Springs, and even S. C. Herbst. However, this distillery grew and introduced another brand that would not fade away in history. They created an iconic brand that continues to flourish today.
Named after John E. Fitzgerald, Old Fitzgerald became so popular that by 1912 the distillery was known as the John E. Fitzgerald Distillery. Depending on which version of whiskey history you follow, one thing is sure John Fitzgerald knew how to find the best barrels in the warehouse. However, like so many distilleries in Kentucky, this distillery closed down due to prohibition.
The W. L. Weller company purchased the rights to the Old Fitzgerald name and the Old Fitz whiskey stocks. Old Fitzgerald became another spirit sold as medicinal whiskey. Near the end of prohibition, the distillery was purchased and restarted by a Mr. Perkins of Frankfort. He began distilling and selling the brands Old Kennebec, Jim Perkins, and Sam Clay. The distillery changed names and owners several times but continued to make liquor until the 1960s.
Old Fitzgerald lives on
After the Stitzel Weller merger, wheat became part of the mash bill of Old Fitzgerald. It was known for the “whisper of wheat” and became a very popular bourbon because of adding wheat as a flavoring grain. The legendary Julian P. Van Winkle revolutionized the bourbon and marketed it as a premium offering with a softer edge.
Now a product of Heaven Hill
Old Fitzgerald has traveled a long path from the Old Judge Distillery to modern-day Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. Heaven Hill releases Old Fitzgerald bottled in bond decanter bottles every spring and fall since 2018. If your decanter bottle of Old Fitzgerald has a green label, it is a spring release. If your bottle has a black label, it is a fall release. The youngest bottle of Old Fitzgerald was an eight-year-old bourbon released in the Spring of 2021. However, the most mature bottle ever released was yet to come.
Old Fitzgerald 17 year old bottled in bond
The spring release of 2022 is a robust 17-year-old bourbon that is the oldest release of the legendary decanter bottles. My good friend Charlie Berry and I opened one up to see whether it measured up to the long-running excellence of Old Fitzgerald. You can watch our review HERE.