Reviewed By: @MCRBourbon
Whiskey Name: William Larue Weller (2016 release)
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Whiskey Type: Wheated Bourbon
Release Date: Autumn 2016
Age: 12 Years
Mashbill: Corn, wheat and malted barley. Ratios unknown.
Introduction / Background:
Well it was later than usual and a lot harder to obtain but the UK finally saw the much anticipated release of Buffalo Trace’s annual Antique Collection towards the end of 2016. As bourbon lovers all across the country scrambled to grab whatever they could, most were left disappointed. Scoring a bottle from the range gets harder every year and, at around £150 per bottle, BTAC now represents fantastic value in terms of American whiskey’s annual limited releases.
William Larue Weller evolved from whiskey originally created at the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, and named after a 19th century distiller who allegedly pioneered using wheat, rather than rye, in his bourbon mashbill. It's effectively a cask-strength version of the increasingly rare W.L. Weller 12.
As a massive fan of both wheated and cask-strength bourbons, the Weller is generally my pick of the annual BTAC release and the bottle I most look forward to tasting every year. Were it not for the wonderful founders of the BBS, I would have gone without one for at least another twelve months. I dread to think how hard this will be to get hold of next year..
Appearance: This is a very dark whiskey. Deep auburn.
Nose: An intense mixture of bread dough, cinnamon, cherry and dark fruits. It can sting a little if you get carried away but I wouldn’t say it comes across as high-proof as it actually is. There’s also a hint of green apple when you back away. Finally, I notice some smoky barrel char. It’s a bit smokier than the past releases that I’ve tried. Not overly complex but very enjoyable.
Nose Score: 4.5
Mouth: The high proof is immediately noticeable. Initially, this is quite sweet and reflects the notes picked up on the nose. Shortly afterwards, a bit of dry oak arrives to balance the sweetness followed by slightly bitter liquorice root and treacle. There’s a fair bit of weight in the liquid and it’s nothing short of delicious.
Mouth Score: 4.5
Finish: Having being bottled at cask-strength, this is unsurprisingly an intense bourbon that lingers long after you’ve had your last sip. Breathing in will bring an icy gust of cherry-vanilla tobacco. Once the cherry settles, there’s some bitterness on the tongue that manifests as a touch of roasted coffee, presumably from the barrel char.
Finish Score: 4.5
Value For Money: OK, some may find this a tad expensive at around £150 but, in the context of today’s ever-inflating bourbon market, it represents good value. It's great to see that UK retailers are (generally) resisting the temptation to pump up prices. William Larue Weller is also unique in that it is, as far as I’m aware, the only obtainable, cask-strength, wheated bourbon on the market aged for a reasonable amount of time.
Value for Money Score: 4.5
Summary: Whilst this year’s release probably isn't the best William Larue Weller I’ve tried, it's certainly a great wheated bourbon. To me, this is not just a cask-strength version of W.L. Weller 12, it is an example of great barrel selection from Buffalo Trace’s wheated bourbon stock. There’s no information available to say exactly how many bottles went on retail sale in the UK but I feel very lucky to have one and it certainly won’t last until the 2017 release!
Due to the ridiculous success of the Van Winkle wheated bourbon range, several distilleries are ageing wheated juice right now. I’d love to think that in a few years there will be a good range of readily available wheaters to compete with William Larue Weller. Until that happens, William Larue Weller will likely remain the best wheated bourbon on sale.
Overall Score: 18