$ — 45% ABV — 12 years
A very old whisky brand that has somehow survived prohibition, a flood and two wars, W.L. Weller is the namesake bourbon of distilling pioneer William Larue Weller, dating back to 1849. He was one of the first to use sweet wheat in his bourbon instead of spicy rye. The old Stitzel-Weller Distillery was sold off in 1972, but the recipe and brand live on at the neighboring Buffalo Trace distillery.
Not many other labels followed Weller's recipe, as wheat was a bit more difficult to brew at the time and also the whisky requires as much as an additional half-decade to reach maturity. But the wait is worth it: Weller is rich, sweet and mellow with a flavor that greatly resembles a spiced chocolate nut bar.
Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle, who took over the Stitzel-Weller distillery in 1908, used select casks of this same wheated bourbon for his now-famous family reserve. Today, the process is replicated at the Trace with Julian Winkle III selecting casks, and the rest being bottled under the Weller name. With Pappy's massive popularity rendering it unobtainable without either industry connections or lots of cash, Weller may be the closest many will ever get. But at such a massive steal, there's maybe not much reason to complain!
If Weller 12 is too oaked for you, the 7-year Old Weller Antique is fruitier and weighs in at a hefty 53.5% ABV, more than enough for a powerful cocktail. Many fans buy both and blend them at home, calling it "poor man's Pappy" (see below recipe) a strange but popular trick. Then of course there's William Larue Weller, the undisputed king of the Weller line, but it has only a very limited release each autumn and can sell for as much as six times the price of Weller 12.
'Poor Man's Pappy'
- W.L. Weller 12 Year — 450 mL
- Old Weller Antique 7 Year — 300 mL
In a 750 mL bottle, use a funnel to pour in the bourbons, a third at a time, alternating between each. Let rest in a dark and cool place for two weeks to one month before serving. This ensures a complete and even blend at roughly 48% ABV.