Whisky Advocate

Some new bourbon and rye whiskeys

July 27th, 2012

Heaven Hill’s Larceny

A review bottle of this showed up yesterday and I did not waste any time. I shared some of it last night with a friend. There’s an interesting story to it, so I will include part of the press release I received:

Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., announces the initial launch of Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey into 12 markets in September 2012. A super-premium 92 proof Bourbon, Larceny is the heir to the wheated Bourbons that make up the historic Old Fitzgerald franchise that Heaven Hill acquired in 1999. In fact, it is the somewhat controversial history of John E. Fitzgerald and his eponymous Bourbon brand that provides the story, and name, to Larceny Bourbon, the latest new label from the venerated distillery that produces Evan Williams and Elijah Craig Bourbons and Rittenhouse Rye.

Larceny Bourbon continues the Old Fitzgerald tradition of using wheat in place of rye as the third or “small” grain in the whiskey’s grain recipe, or mashbill as it is commonly known. The use of winter wheat replaces the spicier, fruitier flavor notes that rye provides with a softer, rounder character that is the hallmark of Old Fitzgerald and other “wheated” Bourbons such as Maker’s Mark and the Van Winkle line.

It is actually the story of the Old Fitzgerald brand, made famous by the late Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr., that forms the historical basis for Larceny Bourbon. According to industry lore, John E. Fitzgerald had founded his distillery in Frankfort , KY shortly after the Civil War ended, making his Bourbon available only to steamship lines, rail lines and private clubs. This story was furthered by S.C Herbst, who owned the “Old Fitz” brand from the 1880’s through Prohibition, and “Pappy” Van Winkle, who purchased the brand revealed by Pappy’s granddaughter, Sally Van Winkle Campbell, in her 1999 book But Always Fine Bourbon—Pappy Van Winkle and the Story of Old Fitzgerald, that in fact John E. Fitzgerald was not a famous distiller at all. He was in reality a treasury agent who used his keys to the warehouses to pilfer Bourbon from the finest barrels. His discerning palate led those barrels to which he chose to help himself being referred to as “Fitzgerald barrels”.

Now Heaven Hill has launched Larceny, whose tagline—“A taste made famous by an infamous act”—sets history straight.

For 2012, Larceny will be available in the 1.75 liter, 1 liter, 750ml and 50ml sizes in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, New York, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. At an average national retail price of $24.99 for the 750ml size, Larceny is a true small batch Bourbon produced from dumps of 100 or fewer barrels that have been selected from the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of Heaven Hill’s open rick warehouses in Nelson County, Kentucky. Larceny is drawn from barrels that have aged from 6 to 12 years at this high storage, and is bottled at a full-bodied 92 proof, or 46% alcohol by volume.

Okay, so what are my thoughts on this whiskey? It tastes very much like I expected it to taste. Like many wheated bourbons (think Maker’s Mark), it’s smooth and easy-drinking. The press release states there’s 6-12 year old whiskey in there. The majority might be on the younger end of the scale, but that’s okay. There’s just enough oak to balance the sweeter notes. I don’t think I would want this whiskey aged any longer. I like the whiskey. I would be more inclined to buy a bottle if it were $19.99 instead of $24.99, but I guess that this is the sign of the times. $25 is the new $20.

Jack Daniel’s…Rye?

I can’t say for certain, but Jeff Arnett, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller, will be speaking at WhiskyFest San Francisco in October and his topic is scheduled to be on a new rye whiskey. Just sayin’…

Colonel E. H. Taylor Rye

I was also checking the pour list for WhiskyFest San Francisco, and noticed an E.H. Taylor Straight Rye on the list. All the Taylor releases to date are from Buffalo Trace have been bourbons, so this would be the first rye release under the Taylor name. (Photo courtesy of Shelby Allison.)

Something new from Russell’s Reserve

There will be a new whiskey coming out in the Russell’s Reserve line. It’s being bottled soon and I’ll let you know more about it then. (I was asked to hold off saying anything at this time.) Stay tuned!

Have a good weekend, everyone!

No Responses to “Some new bourbon and rye whiskeys”

  1. Steve Ashley says:

    I have some friends up in North Carolina, and I’ll ask them to find a bottle for me. I live in Florida….so can’t find it here. Sounds tasty! Thanks for the info John, and keep up the good work!

  2. Dave says:

    Is this the wheated bourbon that the Heaven Hill representative was hinting at previously in the comments to this blog? If so, color me underwhelmed.

  3. Jamie says:

    I would certainly try it, but at that price I’ll buy ORVW 10yr.

    • saqm k says:

      Wow. you can get Old Rip 10 year for $25 on a regular basis? I’d be all over that. I was thrilled to find it in NJ recently for ten dollars more!

  4. tmckenzie says:

    Could it be that the Breakout Premium rye, that was rumored and tasted to me like rye from George Dickel, actually have come from JD?

  5. M Lange says:

    My understanding is that, starting after the fire at Heaven Hill in the mid-90’s, the Old Forrester distillery (owned by Brown-Forman, as is Jack Daniels) made rye whiskey for Heaven Hill that was aged by HH and bottled as Rittenhouse. Several years ago Heaven Hill resumed distilling Rittenhouse themselves, but Old Forrester never stopped distilling a small amount of Rye. This is the stock the Brown-Forman still has, and is likely using for this new Rye Mr. Arnett is speaking about. Whether it is branded as Jack Daniels, Old Forrester or something new, we will have to wait and see.
    If I remember right, Chuck Cowdery talks about the likelihood of a Brown-Forman Rye toward the end of this interview:

  6. Tadas A. says:

    Pace of introductions is speeding up! That’s for sure 🙂 I am having trouble keeping it up. Glad to see more ryes!
    Is it just me or are we really getting more gimicky stuff as oppossed something really new? I could not follow… what does Old Fitz have to do with Larceny? 😀

  7. Jordan says:

    I think we can agree that the phrase “super-premium” has no meaning anymore if it’s being applied to $25 whiskey.

    Hopefully RR is going to give us an older rye. I felt like their 6 year old was just a bit too youthful, but a few more years could really bring it up a notch. And we could use some older ryes to balance the deluge of 4-6 year old stuff on the market right now.

  8. Wheater says:

    Although I love the Weller line and Maker’s, I am looking forward to a new wheater from Heaven Hill. I had Old Fitzgerald once and was not impressed. It sounds like this should be much better than basic Old Fitzgerald.

  9. Jeff says:

    I’m looking forward to trying the Larceny. There are some good wheaters in that price range, like the Weller line, but they are not always easy to find. Based on the packaging, without seeing this blog I would have passed it up if I saw it on the shelf, assuming it was another microdistillery product (not that those are all bad, there are just so many right now I really need someone’s recommendation before I fork over the $$ for one).

    • John Hansell says:

      That’s a good point, Jeff. I don’t think Heaven Hill intended to have Larceny interpreted it that way, but given this is a NAS bourbon with a catchy name, I could see how someone might mistaken it for one of the younger craft whiskeys.

  10. Tadas A. says:

    Here is the new upcoming Parker’s Herritage collection bourbon: Master Distiller’s Blend of Mashbills. Can’t wait!

  11. Bob W. says:

    Just tried the Larceny bourbon at a local whisk bar in ATL. Bar manager received a bottle to sample and he allowed me to join him; looks like they really want to promote it. I agree…it is VERY easy to drink, enjoyable if not too challenging…and should hold up well in the price range they are placing it in. I found myself telling others the story…twice. As we know, never underestimate the power of a good story,especially one that gets close to being authentic, when it comes to selling bourbon!

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