Adventures in Whiskey - The Case of the Strange Fitzgerald
Bottle of Old Fitzgerald Bourbon, very plain, labeled 1895On a busy morning last March, my cell pinged with a text and a pic from a friend: Old Fitz 1895! 
Wow! I quickly dropped all other responsibilities (of course) and called my buddy. He'd been at a liquor store a few hours away, passing through on business, when a guy walked in wondering what to do with a crate of these old bottles. Yes, a crate.
A known real bottle of 1918 Old Fitzgerald
I was stunned.

Old Fitzgerald is arguably the most collectible brand of bourbon there is. It's rare to see one from the 1940s, and here was one from -- 1895?! Man, was I psyched!

But, I was also skeptical. As far as I knew, Old Fitz never looked anything like this. This bottle was really plain, too plain.


Old Fitzgerald has always been a famous brand, which makes it a good candidate for faking (famous brands get big bucks). But this didn't strike me as a faker's masterpiece. It looked half-assed by anyone's standards, including fakers.

Simply put, why would a faker make something that looked so fake? 

Closeup of foil seal, yellow with red embossingThe foil capsule looked legit: dual-color embossing, that's hard to do with precision. And, if a faker had the skills to create this convincing seal, why wouldn't they have used those skills to make a better label? This was all seeming just strange enough to be real.

I called the store where the owner had left the bottles and asked for a bottom photo. A bottle's underside can contain makers' marks and other clues that can determine if a bottle was actually made in the era it's supposedly from. (Some "experts" overlook the importance of glass dating, to embarrassing results).
Soon, the photo came through, and… aw, crap.

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