Round 1b of the Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets features Number 2 seed Ezra Brooks versus Number 3 seed Old Fitzgerald Prime.
I’ll be honest. Ezra Brooks is one of those bourbons, that I walked past for years, never intending to purchase it. It was down low enough on the shelf that I assumed, rightly or wrongly, that it wasn’t worth my time. Which I find odd, upon reflection, since I’m cheap enough that you would think that the price alone would have drawn my eye. But I hadn’t seen it come up online in blogs, forums or twitter. It was easily overlooked. Upon looking online, I see that this is a sourced bourbon sold by Luxco out of St. Louis, sellers of fine spirits such as Everclear and various mixers, schnapps and many many other categories of liquors. It’s described as being for those with rugged spirit and a taste for adventure. Woah. Do I have rugged spirit. Boy I kinda hope so.
Old Fitzgerald Prime is an old name with a strong heritage. It’s an 80 proof wheated bourbon produced by Heaven Hill. I’ve read a lot about the brand, the history, how the brand is the ancestor of Pappy from back when it was Stitzel Weller, and how it inspired Larceny now that it is Heaven Hill. I’ve even reviewed, and liked, it’s 12 year old and it’s Bottled in Bond siblings. Old Fitzgerald Prime was an instant fit for this tasting, I knew I liked the flavor profile, but how would the lower proof stack up?
Purchase Info: Haskell’s Wine & Spirits, Burnsville, MN $14.99 for a 1L
Stated Age: NAS
Sourced/Sold by: Luxco
Nose: Big hit of caramel right off the bat. Under that is some apple.
Mouth: A lot of spice at first, honey, sawdust and hints of apple.
Finish: Warm finish that settles in your chest. Lingering spiced honey.
Thoughts: This one is a classic value play. It’s good considering it’s well under $20 per liter, if it were $30 I don’t know that I would buy it.
Old Fitzgerald Prime
Purchase Info: Haskell’s Wine & Spirits, Burnsville, MN $12.99 for a 1L
Stated Age: NAS
Produced by: Heaven Hill
Nose: Cherry, sawdust, alcohol. A noticeable lack of sweetness.
Mouth: Sweet. Brown sugar and grain flavor. Not complicated, but pleasant.
Finish: Gentle, with a lingering bitterness.
Thoughts: This is a tv watching bourbon. It’s something to sip that tastes good for when you don’t want to concentrate on, or think too hard about your bourbon. It wouldn’t be my first choice for a pour, but I’d be happy enough to have it brought to me. I like this almost as much as I remember liking the BiB version. Still got some alcohol on the nose, which was surprising given it’s lack of proof. But, still, sweet and tasty.
Winner: Ezra Brooks wins by a hair, mostly on the strength of it’s finish. In this case spiced honey beats a lingering bitterness. But it was very, very close, I’d be happy to have either of these on my shelf as a decent everyday bourbon. Old Fitzgerald, being a wheater was softer and sweeter and might be seen as having a disadvantage in this matchup. But then again, Pepsi won the “Pepsi Challenge” back in the 80s mostly on the strength of people choosing the sweeter one head to head, so who knows. In this case, I preferred the rugged spice to the sweeter wheat. But both were good.