John E. Fitzgerald Very Special Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey 20 yrs Red Wood Key Box

JOHN E. FITZGERALD VERY SPECIAL RESERVE STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY 20 YRS RED WOOD KEY BOX

SPIRIT: Bourbon

VOLUME: 375 ml

ABV/PROOF: 45/90

AGE:  20 years

There are certain names in whiskey history that spark immediate interest; Stitzel-Weller is one. The legendary distillery produced bourbon that many consider to be second to none; from Old Fitzgerald to Pappy Van Winkle, Stitzel-Weller’s one-of-a-kind wheated bourbon recipe is often imitated, but never replicated. Which leads to what may be the most curious bottling of Stitzel-Weller bourbon ever released, John E. Fitzgerald Very Special Reserve. 

In 1999, Heaven Hill Distilleries acquired the Bernheim Distillery in Louisville from Diageo, which had rebuilt it but then decided it didn’t need the capacity. Included in that purchase was the storied Old Fitzgerald brand, as well as 12 barrels of bourbon distilled at the Stitzel-Weller distillery seven years prior. Following the acquisition, the barrels were transferred to the first floor of Heaven Hill’s Warehouse Y in Bardstown for “low and slow” aging. Fourteen years later, these 12 barrels were evaluated and determined to be of peak profile. In order to cease the maturation process, they were dumped into inert steel tanks for temporary storage. 

Two years later, in 2015, Heaven Hill stunned the whiskey world with John E. Fitzgerald Very Special Reserve. At the time, Stitzel-Weller was the hottest name in rare whiskey, with collectors and enthusiasts paying top dollar for vintage bottles of Old Fitzgerald and one-off releases containing Stitzel-Weller bourbon, like Jefferson’s Presidential Select 17 and 18. But the question remained: Would John E. Fitzgerald Very Special Reserve garner the same level of high praise as previous Stitzel-Weller bottlings? Heaven Hill was determined to prove it would, and it all started with how the whiskey would be presented.

Sparing no expense, Heaven Hill commissioned a special 375ml bottle with a cut-crystal glass look. It was etched, faux gilded, and fitted with a satin-finish metal stopper. The bottle was then housed in a custom, hand-crafted wood box featuring hinged doors with magnetic closures. A keyhole, a symbol closely associated with the infamous warehouse inspector John Fitzgerald and the Old Fitzgerald brand, was cut into the doors of the box.

Only 3,000 bottles of John E. Fitzgerald Very Special Reserve were released. At $300 suggested retail price for 375ml, it was a hefty ask for a limited-edition bourbon in 2015. Needless to say, it sold out instantaneously – yet another testament to the strength of the Stitzel-Weller name.

Producer: Heaven Hill

Misc.: Distilled by Stitzel-Weller Distillery, DSP-KY-16, and bottled by Heaven Hill Distilleries, DSP-KY-31, Bardstown.

Collector’s tips: Each bottle is etched “John E. Fitzgerald Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.” It includes a booklet and is housed in a handmade wooden box with magnetic hinged doors. 

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