Due to a slight mishap, I have some tasting time on my hands, so I’m going to attempt to make some major progress in catching up on my advent tasting. We’ll see how that goes.
First up is Weller 12 Year Old Bourbon, a reasonably priced wheated bourbon (like Pappy Van Winkle). Price-wise, this offering from Buffalo Trace is slotted in-between Weller Special Reserve and Old Weller Antique (107°), but many prefer it to the latter. In fact, members of the Straight Bourbon Forum have created their own blend of 50% Weller 12 and 50% Old Weller Antique as a compromise (or is it improvement?). If you’re really serious about your whiskey (I am), then Buffalo Trace also offers William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon as part of their Antique Collection (a limited annual release of 5 whiskies). It’s a barrel-strength offering (my 2012 bottle is 123.4°) that is quite popular and very hard to find in most parts of the country. Enough background, it’s time to smell this baby.
There’s a bit of straw in the mix, but it’s more subdued than the malts I’ve been drinking lately. A spicy ginger and pepper reach my nose with a bit of burn while the sweetness of the honey, caramel, dark cherry, vanilla and sweet tobacco provide balance. This is a decidedly different experience than nosing a rye-forward bourbon (most of them out there) and I enjoy it a lot. For me, it’s the dark fruits that come out in the wheated offerings that I like so much and this $20 whiskey provides an ample demonstration. It’s a less spicy and sweeter aroma that I find more enjoyable (not that I don’t enjoy the rye-forward bourbons or rye whiskey… some of those are coming up).
That this is a different kind of bourbon, is immediately evident. The dark cherry, overripe apple, vanilla, caramel, honey and plum arrive first along with a bit of lemon drop tartness. The spices arrive next as ginger, cinnamon and black pepper and are accompanied by the onset of the wood tannins, which build as the mouthfeel becomes somewhat chewy. The finish is spicy and mildly leathery with a bit of charred oak flavor that linger for a long time. The black pepper fades very slowly and I’m left with remnants of sweet tobacco and oak.
I really enjoy this bourbon and highly recommend it if you’ve never tasted a wheated bourbon (for me, Maker’s Mark doesn’t count… this is much better). For me, it’s the best wheated bourbon value out there and, yes, I do prefer it to Old Weller Antique. If you end up liking it as much as I do, then you’ll be pleased to know that it’s offered in handles (1.75l) as well.