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Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., the country’s largest independent family-owned and operated spirits producer and marketer, 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 during Prohibition and made it his signature label. However, it was 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”.