Old FitzgeraldAmerican Whiskey
John E. Fitzgerald's bourbon was not available for general sale,and was targeted principally at gentlemen's clubs and the lounges of steamships and railroad club cars. It was to be 1900 before Old Fitzgerald became available to the masses.
During Prohibition, Old Fitzgerald was one of the very fewbrands legally allowed to produce whiskey for medicinal use, and during this period (1919-33) Old Fitzgerald was bought by the famous Bourbon character 'Pappy' Van Winkle. It was he who adapted the Old Fitzgerald recipe, swapping the rye in the mashbill for wheat for a rounder, softer flavour, and producing it at his brand-new Stitzel-Weller distillery in Shively (built in 1935).
The Van Winkle family sold Stitzel-Wellerin 1972 and it eventually fell into the hands of United Distillers (now known as Diageo), who bought six other American whiskey distilleries - and then built their own in Louisville (Bernheim, in 1991) and shut all the others down. Diageo only operated Bernheim themselves for around seven years, before getting bored and selling everything to Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill, the latter of whom now own Bernheim distillery (bought as a replacement for their Bardstown distillery, which was destroyed by fire in 1996) and produce Old Fitzgerald - still with its 'whisper of wheat'.
From the website:
A Look Back in Time
John E. Fitzgerald’s original “private label” Bourbon was introduced in 1870 and soon became the exclusive Bourbon of railroad and steamship barons and was deeply integrated in the culture of the Old South.
Around 1900, “Fitz” finally released his brand to the Bourbon-loving American public and also began marketing in Europe. At time of its introduction, “Old Fitz”, as it became known, was one of the few Bourbons distilled in the pot still method, and continued to be made that way until about 1913.
During Prohibition, when the Bourbon was one of a select few distilled under government supervision for the national medicinal trade, “Old Fitz” was acquired by colourful, old-fashioned whiskey man Pappy Van Winkle who introduced the “Whisper of Wheat” to the original recipe. The rest is Bourbon history.
Preserving the Heritage
Today, John Fitzgerald’s premium Wheated Bourbon is still made in the tradition he and Pappy Van Winkle established. Our Master Distiller has preserved the traditional techniques, choosing only the finest grains and purest water, and slow-aging the Bourbon in charred White oak barrels. Then, we add modern production and quality assurance methods to deliver a consistently great Bourbon-whether it’s enjoyed straight, on the rocks, or in a favourite mixed drink.