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W.L. Weller 12 Year Old

Never trust first impressions...

0 982

@hunggarReview by @hunggar

16th Mar 2015

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  • Overall
    82

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

William Larue Weller is perhaps the most well known “wheated” bourbon. I know very little about wheated bourbons, so I was curious to try one. This has only recently become available in Taiwan, and it sells for a reasonable price. Why not?

Nose: Big oak, molasses, orange soda, toffee, maple, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, aloe, and a strong floral note. Quite flowery, in fact.

Palate: Thick and sweet. Extremely floral arrival with some tartness. Cinnamon, oak, cherrywood, pine resin, aloe, earl grey tea, and milk chocolate.

Finish: A reasonably dynamic, medium finish. It gets slightly creamier here. Orange soda, oak, big cinnamon, nutmeg, and a nougat/nut/chocolate combo. A cool marshmallow note lingers.

Thoughts: My first impression was that this is quite a standard, rather uneventful profile. But it was suggested that I let this one take some air. I did that, and after a few months this opened up. The floral notes “blossomed,” the wood became more vibrant, and I found flavours that simply weren’t there before. This does have a special set of flavours. I particularly like the aloe, marshmallow, and baking spices. Unfortunately, it’s a bit thick for my tastes (there’s a shocker). And despite being interesting, the finish isn’t as intense or as “put-together” as I’d like. But those are my only quibbles. I offered this to several friends, and they all seemed to enjoy it more than I did. It’s quality whiskey, but not my cup of tea.

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9 comments

@Victor
Victor commented

@hunggar, good 'several months out' review. "Uneventful" is just about exactly how I found Weller 12 yo for at least a year, maybe more. And I would have rated my bottle about the same as you did, maybe even 2-4 points lower, for the first 6 plus months. If you still have your bottle around look at it closely between 1 and 2 years open. Mine blossomed in a huge way, at about 14-18 months, and has stayed great thereafter.

William Larue Weller was the man who invented wheated bourbon. All five of the big wheated brands derive from his original recipes. W.L. Weller 12 yo is not the same bourbon as is William Larue Weller bourbon, which is the annual barrel strength allocated release from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. Mr. Jim Murray very correctly goes ape-shit over William Larue Weller, which is a very high test whiskey indeed. William Larue Weller is usually released at between 64% and 70% abv, and is, as Mr. Murray describes it, "a three course meal of a bourbon". Weller 12 yo is a very very mild variation on the William Larue Weller theme. But it does get to be delicious, and much more strongly flavoured, after a LOT of time.

Wheated bourbon is its own world, which becomes apparent with exposure to a number of them.

4 years ago 0

@hunggar
hunggar commented

@Victor, I have no doubt this will continue to improve with time. However I don't feel the necessity to wait until a whisky "peaks" for me to review it, especially if it's a long wait. Basically, 1) I'm not sure if the bottle will last that long, and 2)why should I afford this whisky special patience? I generally wait anywhere from a few weeks to a few months before reviewing something, but if something peaks after a year then I might call that a shortcoming, and feel no obligation to wait so long for a review.

Yes, you're right. I should have made a distinction between the WL and the William Larue. I've read your reviews and seen you endorse wheated whiskies several times over, which is part of the reason I wanted to pick this one up. I have little experience on the subject, although that's mostly due to lack of access. I do hope Taiwan will get a taste of the better Weller one of these days, or any of the BTAC collection. But with demand being what it is I won't hold my breath. As usual, thanks for the helpful comment. :)

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@hunggar, yes, absolutely, I have always been, like you, at the very least a bit 'lukewarm' on Weller 12 yo, and I don't quibble a bit with either 1) your desire to do a review relatively early on in a bottle's open life, or 2) your dislike of having to wait a long period for the bottle to attain flavours which you like. I feel the same way, actually. My comment about your checking out your bottle after more time is elapsed was just a suggestion to get maximum enjoyment out of that bottle. I really didn't think much of my bottle of Weller 12 til somewhere around 18 months open.

As for other wheated bourbons, I've got a bunch of them for you to try. Drop a little south on that next Montreal trip.

4 years ago 0

@hunggar
hunggar commented

@Victor, I wasn't getting defensive there, I know you were simply putting forth a suggestion. I just wanted to explain why I reviewed it now.

As for a tasting session together, I fully intend to take you up on that offer someday.

4 years ago 0

@cherylnifer
cherylnifer commented

hunggar and victor: I concur with both of you, wholeheartedly. I found the Weller 12yo to be very smooth and easy to sip. But at the same time, I felt it lacked any real personality. I found the flavor very, very mild. The family name carried more excitement than the flavor and finish of this particular bourbon. Quite the opposite than it's sibling Old Weller Antique 107. Just my humble opinion.

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

I had a very similar experience with my one and only bottle of the now-discontinued Van Winkle 10 yo, 90 proof bourbon. I originally reviewed it at 78 points. It was so understated at first as to be negligible in the flavour department.

That Old Rip Van Winkle 10-90 came from the same distillery as W. L. Weller 12 yo, was similar in age, was sold at the same ABV, and had, by most estimates, the same mashbill as Weller bourbon. Was the yeast different? I don't know for sure one way or the other. Some swear they are the same.

The Van Winkle 10-90 blossomed very beautifully, but it also required a lot of air time, like more than a year's air time.

People speculate that for these reasons above there should not be much difference between Van Winkle bourbon and Weller bourbon, but I have never had any Weller bourbon which tasted to me like any Van Winkle bourbon. Could barrel selection by Van Winkle be enough by itself to create the differences between the brands? Possibly, but I greatly doubt it.

(Parenthetical note: the remaining Van Winkle 10-107 bourbon is a very different beast from both the Van Winkle 10-90 and the W. L. Weller 12 yo. Old Rip Van Winkle 10-107 is robustly flavoured from the git-go.)

4 years ago 0

@paddockjudge
paddockjudge commented

Time in a bottle, an open bottle.

This particular expression of Weller has slept in a barrel for 12 or more years. Expecting it to be perfect when the cap is snapped is, in my opinion, a very high level of expectation. Satisfaction and gratification are not always instantaneous.

After 12 years in a barrel, waiting a few more weeks, months or years is a small price to pay. The return on invest is definitely worth whatever small cost might be incurred.

My cabinet currently holds 80 open bottles from which I can derive pleasure. There is no 'reboot' switch on a bottle of whisky. Sometimes a bottle sleeps too long and the quality declines; however, most bottles flourish and eventually show greater potential than what is initially predicted upon opening. Tonight I am sipping from a spectacular pour of Redbreast 12 YO, 40%abv. This particular bottle is at 1/3 fill level and has been open for more than 4 years. It is every bit as delicious as the day it was opened, perhaps more so. This Irish beauty drinks much bigger than its modest 40% abv.

There are dozens of open bottles on the shelves of my cabinet which now possess a more desirable taste profile than the day on which they were opened. Whisky stewardship has its rewards.

4 years ago 0

@hunggar
hunggar commented

@cherylnifer, very true. The legendary Old Weller name certainly carries a lot of weight. Expectations may be unfairly high for this one.

@paddockjudge, thanks for the comment. I don’t think anyone expects perfection right after the bottle’s been opened. My “grace period” for reviewing something depends, but I’d say it’s anywhere for 3 weeks to about 6 months. For me, waiting a few weeks or months is a given. Waiting over, say, two years might be pushing things, though. I applaud your patience.

Personally, I’m a bit more wary about the effects of time on a bottle. This is all debatable, of course, and depends on personal tastes, experiences, and which whiskies we’ve had in our collections. But I’d say about 60% of whiskies “peak” within the first six months or so, and about 90% within the first year. There are some whiskies which keep on giving well past a year, but I count them as the exception rather than the rule.

You have much more Canadian and American whiskies in your cabinet. I find that bourbon in particular has a longer shelf life than scotch, generally speaking. Obviously it’s case by case, but it’s a tendency I’ve noticed with my (admittedly small) collection of bourbons. Not sure about Canadians.

Thoughts?

4 years ago 0

@Jules
Jules commented

I love this stuff, it's my nr.1 post-workday drink after a hard slug at the office. Agreed though that the finish is pretty low-key.

4 years ago 0

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