W.L. Weller 12 Year


W.L. Weller 12 Year

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

In the last year, “Weller 12,” as it is commonly called, has almost reached the status of the Pappy Van Winkle line in its difficulty to find, though you quickly understand the difference between the demand for Pappy and Weller 12 when you stumble upon a random store that has rows Weller 12 sitting out on the shelf with no one blinking an eye at them–the days of this chance occurrence happening for Pappy are long gone.  I’d wager that more than half of the Pappy bottles that made it to stores last year were sold before they were out of the box, the others minutes after they touched the shelf.  And sure enough, last Fall, after travelling around hunting for premium whiskey (an addiction hobby of mine) and leaving my number with countless spirits shops in my region, I started getting calls about not only things like Pappy and the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, but also Weller 12.  One shop was “willing to let one bottle go for $49.99.”  Two years ago this would never have happened, it would have been put on the shelf and sold to fans of this bourbon as they came in.  It is what it is though, demand is growing and supply (for the moment) is about the same.  But this is old news.

Of course, because Weller 12 is also distilled at Buffalo Trace, and because it is produced with the same mash bill as the Pappy line (a wheated bourbon, like all Pappy Van Winkle products), Weller 12 has come to be sort of the poor man’s Pappy.  There’s even the notorious recipe from Blake over at Bourbonr.com of blending Weller 12 with Old Weller Antique 107 and a bit of water to create what people actually refer to as “Poor Man’s Pappy”–supposedly this blend is a pretty damn close match to what some of the younger Pappy line (10, 12 and 15 year) tastes like.  Having never actually tasted any of these bourbons (I know, right?), I can’t confirm this, but the blend sure is good.

But let’s taste Weller 12 Year on its own, shall we?  The nose is sweet and oaky, in line with what I’ve come to expect in a wheated bourbon.  Toasted oak, vanilla, caramel, butterscotch, buttered corn on the cob, orgeat.  Not nearly as fruit-forward as most products from BT, but I can find banana and cherry if I dig around a bit.  Very nice.  You smell it for long enough and you may worry you are about to have a cloyingly sweet drink, but happily, this is not the case.  The palate is much grainier, you can taste the wheat influence, that delicious cereal.  The oak really comes through big time on the tongue to balance out the sweet and buttery flavors that abound.  The fruit is non-present on the palate, and missed only a tiny bit.  Very smooth, decent length finish with awesome trailings of clove.  Twelve years in a charred oak barrel really does some favors to this distillate, any less and I worry the sweetness would be overpowering, but as is, Buffalo Trace has found a perfect balance here.  Great stuff.

If you ever find yourself standing in your local liquor store in front of a bottle of W.L. Weller Special Reserve, a bottle of Old Weller Antique 107, and a bottle of Weller 12, debating which one to get, struggling over the $5-10 price difference (this is not from personal experience–I swear!) , BUY THE WELLER 12 YEAR.  The bang for buck difference is remarkable.  The fact that Buffalo Trace is still getting this out at $30 and under a bottle is baffling to me.  Guess they are the good guys.  They know we’d pay more!

Rating: 9.1 / 10




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