So I came to W.L. Weller, having read a few articles here and there claiming a shared heritage between Van Winkle whiskeys and W.L. Weller releases. The fundamental similarity said to be that both include wheat in the mashbill instead of rye.
Having been introduced to good bourbon via the Van Winkles, my expectations have been set somewhat high, and the lack of availability has led me on a quest to find substitutes.
I have to say that W.L. Weller Aged 12 Years hasn't really disappointed.
This bottle has been open a few months. Maybe 6.
The colour is beautiful in the bottle. It's a reddish, dark orange, dark amber turning tawny, oily looking in the glass and bottle. Beautiful looking bourbon.
Nose is the most alluring thing about this whiskey and I get why there is a comparison to the VWs. I'm not sure if it's the wheat but it has that similar deep sweet vinous/grapey aromatic texture on top of the corn sugars. There's Sauternes dessert wine, light Cognac, lots of muscovado sugar, orange blossom floral, syrupy caramel. There's a long sweet vinous depth of sweetness. It's that sunshine in a bottle again. This is what first stuck me about the VWs. The combination of muscovado sugars with that sweet wine like quality.
Taste isn't quite as alluring, but still good. It's soft, yes there's that vinous quality, but less pronounced than in the aroma, muscovado sugars and caramels, floral, light Cognac. Mouthfeel is oily, like a dessert wine, grapey, some peppery spice on the back of the throat.
Finish is muscovada sugar, that vinous texture and some peppery spice. After a few minutes I'm getting a little bit of the wood. Aged wood.
It's somewhere along the way to a Van Winkle, but not quite there.
I like Weller 12, assuming it has opened up sufficiently. I like Old Weller Antique 107 even more, especially the old label 7 year age statement stuff. And William Larue Weller is sublime.
Taste some Weller 12 and Van Winkle 12 and 15 side by side and you will never assert that they are very close in flavour profile.
Same distillry? Yes. Same mashbill? Yes. Same age? Same or similar. Same proof? Same or similar. But the barrel selection is different. Is the yeast different? I don't know. Could be. But it is probably just the barrel selection.
I'd say there's definitely some similarity in the nose, but it's not really there in the taste and palate. The Old Weller Antique I find more complex, but on the palate a little younger and hotter. I shade the 12 over the Antique 107, but most people I know would have that the other way around.