Friday, July 5, 2013
The Old Fitz Diamond Bottle Mystery
"I have a bottle of Old Fitzgerald and I'm trying to figure out when it was bottled, could you help please?"
It's a common enough request but this, it turned out, was more interesting than most. It is a bottle of Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond. The embossed diamonds on the shoulder stood out as unusual, as did something on the label.
One of the requirements for bottled-in-bond is that the label must show both where the whiskey was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. The label says it was distilled at DSP-16. That's Stitzel-Weller in Louisville, which stopped distilling in 1992. You'd expect to see that. Old Fitzgerald was made at DSP-16 from 1934 until 1992. Since bonds must be at least four years old and usually aren't much more than that, it most likely was bottled before 1997.
Stitzel-Weller had bottling facilities but according to the label, this bottle was filled elsewhere.
DSP-24? That's the old Glenmore distillery in Owensboro. The distillery is long gone but the bottling house is still there, owned by Sazerac.
Did Glenmore and Stitzel-Weller ever have the same owner? Yes, but in whiskey terms only briefly, for about four years, from 1991 to 1995.
Here's how it happened.
The 1990s were a period of intense consolidation in the whiskey business. Here are the transactions that matter for our purposes. In 1984, Scotland's Distillers Company Limited (DCL) bought Somerset Importers, an American company, which owned Stitzel-Weller and Old Fitzgerald. In 1986, Ireland's Guinness & Co. bought DCL. In 1991, it bought Kentucky's Glenmore Distilleries, including the bottling house in Owensboro. In 1995, it sold that bottling house to Canandaigua Wine Co., parent company of Barton Brands, which later sold it to Sazerac.
So the two DSPs were only co-owned between 1991 and 1995. That doesn't absolutely mean this bottle was filled between those dates, but it probably was. Mystery solved.
Does that mean this is a valuable bottle? Perhaps. It is Stitzel-Weller bourbon, and the DSP-16/24 combo is rare.
Mostly it's just fun to figure these things out.