William Larue Weller 2017 – many will seek it, but few will find. Despite its relative scarcity, it is perennially lauded as one of best bourbons on the market.
Containing the enviable wheated mash bill from Buffalo Trace and aged for 12 years, it is essentially cask strength Van Winkle Family Reserve Lot “B.” People go nuts for anything designated with the “Van Winkle” name, but true connoisseurs know that William Larue Weller is worth the hype.
A member of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection since 2005, William Larue Weller is the lone wheated mashbill bourbon in the lineup. Like George T. Stagg and Thomas H. Handy, William Larue Weller is released at cask strength, which has varied from 121.9 to 140.2 proof. The age of the release has also varied, between 10 and 15 years, but has remained steady at 12 years since 2012.
We were fortunate enough to acquire a bottle of the William Larue Weller 2017 release. This is the fourth member of the 2017 Antique Collection we have been able to review so far (George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare 17, Thomas H. Handy).
In true Flight Club form, we gathered, we sampled, we compared, and we enjoyed. We pulled out a bottle of William Larue Weller 2016, which we had all previously reviewed, for the purpose of contrast.
Here is our review of William Larue Weller 2016, followed by William Larue Weller 2017:
William Larue Weller 2016 (12 years 7 months, 135.4 proof)
Nose: Cinnamon red hots wrapped in oak. Bing cherries. Cotton candy. Fig, vanilla, and caramel. Grape soda. Raspberries and oranges. Some light pastry dough. (4/5)
Palate: A tidal wave of red hots, caramel, and cinnamon sugar. There is a pleasant, not overpowering, burn throughout. On the back end of the palate there is some grape soda. (5/5)
Finish: Long, with all the flavors in the palate lingering with the warm burn. Some skinless red apple appears late in the finish. (4.5/5)
Overall: This is a robust and wonderful drink. The high proof is noticeable, but did not overpower the flavor profile. The proof complements well the spicy flavors inherent in the red hots and cinnamon sugar. It is complex enough to appreciate its maturity, but not in any way mysterious. The flavors are all familiar enough that they are not difficult to identify. A delightful experience from beginning to end. (4.5/5)
This is a robust and wonderful drink where the high proof complements the red hots/cinnamon sugar flavors…a delightful experience from beginning to end.
Value: Acquiring this at MSRP is nearly impossible, but we were able to purchase it locally for $149.99 last year. At that price, though $50 above retail, this is certainly more than satisfying. (4/5)
William Larue Weller 2017 (12 years 6 months, 128.2 proof)
Nose: The drop in proof is noticeable immediately (especially considering the 2016 bottle was opened nearly a year ago). Heavy salted caramel with vanilla extract, mint, light cocoa, and dusty cedar. (4/5)
Palate: The drop in proof again is obvious. Strong caramel again initially, which transitions into light cocoa and dark chocolate. The mouthfeel is noticeably different, with an almost chalky cocoa feeling to it. Some purple grapes round out the back palate. (4.5/5)
Finish: Cocoa covered chocolate cherry candies, with some fig and dry oak. The finish is not as long as the 2016, with the dry/chalky characteristics from the mouthfeel likely the precipitating cause. (3.5/5)
Overall: Quite a different experience from the 2016 release. The cocoa notes and texture were the most noticeable distinction. Though it paired well with the stronger caramel and dark chocolate flavors, the effect on the mouthfeel and finish did diminish the experience. Not a fatal flaw by any stretch of the imagination – this was a bourbon we were all more than satisfied with. (4/5)
The caramel, dark chocolate, and cocoa combination is quite enjoyable, though it may have detracted a bit from the mouthfeel and finish. But overall, a very enjoyable dram.
Value: This was purchased nearer to MSRP than the 2016 bottle. For this kind of quality, we were more than satisfied. (4/5)