John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Review

Whiskey Name: John E. Fitzgerald Larceny

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Whiskey Type: Wheat recipe bourbon

Release Date: General release

Price: c.£45

Age: NAS

ABV: 46%

Mashbill: Presumably standard issue Heaven Hill wheat recipe: 75% corn, 20% wheat, 5% malted barley

Introduction/Background: Wheat is oh-so-fashionable these days. Presumably because people look at the cult status of the Van Winkle range, and the critical acclaim of the Weller family and think “yeah, we’ll have some of that.” Which has resulted in some pretty uncompromising, over-youthful stuff.

Heaven Hill, on the other hand, have long history and form as distillers of wheat-recipe bourbon. Current custodians of the Old Fitzgerald brand, and recently gaining extra attention for the 10yo Rebel Yell Single Barrel, reviewed by @MCRBourbon here. (As a side note, we’d still really like to see this in the UK please! And, if we’re making optimistic requests, I’d also like a non-Single Barrel version, because aspects of the single barrel obsession are starting to needle me slightly. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

I guess that Larceny counts as a kind of cousin to Old Fitz, in that it carries the Fitzgerald name. It’s ostensibly a celebration of treasury agent John E. Fitzgerald’s larcenous practice of helping himself to bourbon from the rickhouses he held keys to. Mr Fitzgerald apparently had an unerring eye for the “honey” casks, leading the distillery to name the ones he pilfered from “Fitzgerald” barrels.

All very jolly; roguish winks all round. I add only that if I snuck into the Heaven Hill rickhouses and started making free with a valinch, I would be arrested, and we would not see the launch of a bourbon called “That Rascal Wellsy”. But I guess things were different back in the 19th Century...

Appearance: Copper. Medium depth.

Nose: Just the right side of maturity. Hurrah! Very caramel-forward, and rather floral too. Some depth arrives in the form of oak and wholemeal bread. (When I went back to the glass later it smelled massively like the seeded rolls I use for sandwiches. But that’s a little niche...) Aroma intensity isn’t massive, nor is it especially spicy. Straightforward stuff.

Mouth: More happening on the palate. Still lots of caramel, but a rather nutty element has joined it, with the upshot that it feels like eating brittle, but without the dental work worries. Lighter hazels and pecans, rather than a deeper, earthier sort of nut. The wholemeal aspect returns. Slightly spiky alcohol considering the proof – is it just me, or does this happen a lot with wheaters?

Finish: Back to sweeter pecans and brown sugars.

Value for Money: Perhaps £5-£10 high in the UK market.

Summary: Larceny is very solid, without being bowl-you-over stuff. Not terribly complex perhaps, but a decent wheater with clean, clear aromas and flavours. There isn’t huge competition in the sub-£50 wheat-recipe category, and the current craze for all things wheaty has perhaps pushed the price up a smidge. For me it’s a step behind Maker’s 46 though; ditto Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, although that one’s only worth buying at Duty Free price. If Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique were realistically available, and if Rebel Yell 10 was in the UK for under £50, that £45 price tag would start looking slightly precarious. For me, it ought to be more in line with where Elijah Craig 12 is. (Though Elijah Craig is actually better stuff!)

Overall Verdict: Good stuff as a day-to-day pour. Not quite day-to-day price though. Take a note or two off and I’d have a bottle.

Words by WhiskyPilgrim