...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: W.L. Weller 12 year old Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Such is this cockamamie whisky world that I had to source my sample for this bourbon from The Netherlands.  You see, once upon a time (approximately two years ago) retailers suddenly realized that they were selling WL Weller 12yo for only $30 while they were selling a bourbon (known as Van Winkle 12yo) with the same age and same mashbill by the same company for $300.  Then this happened:
from winesearcher's market data
To put a finer point on it:
Avg price in September 2014 - $26
Avg price in September 2016 - $215
Price increase in two years: 727%

While I have heard unofficial tales about decreased allocations of Weller 12, I have also seen stories in Esquire and Wall Street Journal encouraging their readers to seek out the Wellers if they can't find the Van Winkles.  So with a little less supply, more demand, and even more "let's see what these dopes will pay for this stuff" WL Weller finds itself with a 700% price increase.

As this is a wheated bourbon -- thus uses wheat in the mashbill as its flavoring grain rather than rye -- and I'm not the biggest fan of modern wheaters (though I do ♥ dusty Old Fitzes), I did try the Weller 12 alongside a pour of Heaven Hill's wheated Larceny.  I'll review Larceny at another time.  This post is about Master Weller.

Owner: Buffalo Trace (via Sazerac)
Brand: WL Weller
Distillery: Buffalo Trance Distillery
Location: Franklin, Kentucky
Mash Bill: unknown, but it does use wheat rather than rye as its flavoring grain
Age: at least 12 years
ABV: 45% ABV
(I am reviewing from a purchased sample)

The nose starts off with vanilla, caramel, and oak (duh).  Oak char, sap, and bark.  With time it gets creamier and desserty, but I'm still sniffin' tree here.  Okay, there's some fresh apricots or apricot jam, and black cherry ice cream.  After a half hour it picks up a barbecue sauce note.  The palate is dirtier and earthier than I expected.  It's austere (oh that word) for a bourbon, at first.  Gradually the sweets (definitely honey) come around as does a peppery zip.  Burnt corn on the cob.  A hint of maraschino cherries.  Something reminiscent of dusty bourbons, like a whiff of metal+vanilla.  Overall it's Tannin City, or maybe Tannin Island since there's water all around.  The muted finish is mostly barrel char with granulated sugar, burnt corn, and orange peel.  Some hints of vanilla and black pepper in the background.

To me, this was an acceptable bourbon, likely worth $30 in this market, though probably had some competitors at $10-$15 in the previous decade.  The nose works, even with the felled forest within, and the palate's earthy and dusty notes keep it entertaining.  But the thinness to the mouthfeel and generic finish keep it from being anything more than okay.  If I magically find a bottle at its old price, I will buy it for cocktails, casual sipping, and maybe even a re-review if it exceeds (or falls short of) this experience.  Otherwise, I liked Larceny more and I even found Weller 107 better than this.

For those who have purchased a bottle of this for $200, have you opened your bottle and consumed its contents?  Did it provide $200 worth of pleasure?  Please help me here with some details because I don't understand it.

Availability - It's still out there, don't be afeared of the scare tactics
Pricing - Be afraid, be very afraid
Rating - 81


  1. My notes from 2012:
    "Nice soft nose, with good sweetness on the palate. However, it is too woody and this woody bitterness on the top of the tongue upsets the otherwise pleasant experience. I'll have to try the 107 instead. 75-79pts". Also, having tried Weller 107, I did like that a lot more ("cherry tobacco, 85pts").

    1. As I was drinking this last night, I actually thought "Florin wouldn't like this one very much." Did you get the 12yo at the old price?

    2. Oh, never mind. Back in 2012, the old price was all there was.

    3. You only think of me when you've been drinking.

    4. I think only of you when I've been drinking.

  2. One of the few benefits of living in a control state is that it's still available at the original MSRP here. But, as with Florin, I'd rather get 107 instead.

    1. I think that makes three of us. So not only is the 107 more widely available and cheaper, but it's better. We'd better keep that a secret.

    2. Hmmm, I'm afraid it's an open secret. I think of the 12yo as Pappy chasers bait. Plus, I can't remember exactly the proof of the 107, but it's higher than the 12yo. OK, I have it here: it's 107 proof.

  3. As I write this in May 2019, all these "buffaloes" are being hunted to extinction - not only just Weller Antique 107 but even the plain-jane 90-proof Buffalo Trace.

    In KENTUCKY(!) a few months ago, in Louisville, I saw a bottle of WA107 at a smallish "gas station/convenience store" and the guy wanted $80. That was when they still sat on shelves in Ohio for $27 or so. I don't play these games :) I like WA107 pretty well, right up to about $30.