By Kurt Maitland
Average Rating: A-
In the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) line up, William Larue Weller checks off the wheated bourbon box. However, Weller is also usually a middle aged and always a cask strength bottling. This year’s is a 12 1/2 year old, drawn from 145 barrels that lost nearly two-thirds of their original contents to the Angel’s Share. These were dumped and bottled, unfiltered and uncut at 135.4 proof (67.7% ABV).
Given that this makes the 2016 William Larue Weller the same thing as a cask strength W.L. Weller 12 Year Old, a whiskey that has been a hot item for a few years now because it was tagged as an able substitute for Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old. It’s realizations like that which make Weller almost as popular as George T. Stagg, moreso among wheated bourbon diehards.
Nose: Cherry tobacco and peaches, molasses and cooking spices.
Taste: First time I had this release, a beautiful orange citrus note appears and stays with you, the whole way through. The cherry tobacco of the nose kicks in the middle of this. On return sips, the cherry vanilla is more dominant and takes the lead from the citrus. The citrus doesn’t go away but it’s not lead dog anymore. The mouthfeel is dry, hot and astringent.
Finish: Long and lingering tangerine at first then fades into cherry vanilla and tobacco at the end.
A little water shifts this to semi dry, makes the mouthfeel more rubbery, cuts out some of the sweetness and trims back some of the flavor of the finish if not the length. For me, water takes away more than it gives and you are better off enjoying it neat.
I love Weller in all its forms (especially the 12 Year Old). I try to keep a few bottles around for tastings and personal consumption. Last year’s version I couldn’t drink without water. While they are essentially the same proof (2015’s version was 134.6), this version is pretty drinkable without any water. It’s hot, but you would be a fool not to expect that when the ABV is that high.
Addendum By Father John Rayls
This is a much darker bourbon than I normally encounter. It’s almost a dark brown with copper highlights as the sun’s rays pass through it. The legs are very long and impressive.
The nose is also very impressive. Amazingly, there is no alcohol burn associated with it. How is that even possible? I love caramel corn and that is the primary aroma I get coming from this magical elixir. There is also vanilla, pipe tobacco and very light oak. I’m always reluctant to add any water to my pour even though I know at times it can release additional flavors and complexity. I consumed this neat and found it very exciting, but a little difficult to pick up on all the flavor. It coated the mouth beautifully with flavors of dates and vanilla with lighter notes of leather and oak.
The finish is the longest I’ve ever experienced. The mouth experience begins at the front and finally includes the back. However, the finish is a smooth powerful force. It went on and on, but not in waves. It simply parked itself at the back without biting.
Needless to say, I’ve already contacted my supplier about acquiring a bottle (thanks Daniel!).
Since the chances of you getting this at the MSRP of $90 lies between slim and none (assuming of course, you can find it at all), you should expect this to be a pricey buy. Even so, if you found it at twice the MSRP, you should snatch it up and consider it a bargain.