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Bourbon Review Comparison: W.L. Weller and Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year

W.L. Weller 12 Year Bourbon, $25, 45%abv (90 Proof)

Color: Deep Amber/Copper

Nose: Caramel and Butterscotch, ripe banana, candied almonds, flint, and toasted oak.

Flavor: Buttery, rich, and sweet. Butterscotch, vanilla custard, baking spices, and oak resin breaks up the sweetness

Finish: Toffee and warm, soft cinnamon spice.

Overall: An excellent wheated bourbon at an even better price. Soft, sweet, and rich with enough oak and spice to keep things from becoming too syrupy. This is a big big step up from W.L. Weller 7 year 107 Proof. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.8 (Outstanding/Superb)

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Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year Old Bourbon (Lot B), $50, 45.2%abv (90.4 Proof)

Color: Deep Amber/Copper

Nose: Butterscotch, banana pudding, toasted pecans, and buttered cinnamon toast with a rising wave of oak.

Flavor: Absolutely stunning mouth feel – silky and velvety. Tastes of puddle of butterscotch sauce over vanilla ice cream. It’s sweet and concentrated and then quickly cut with pretty strong dry cinnamon spice and some oaky astringency that interplays wonderfully with the sweetness.

Finish: Butterscotch, cinnamon candy, and some bitter char remain on the finish.

Overall: A seriously great bourbon whiskey. Like the Weller 12 it’s sweet, buttery, and rich, but this one ramps up interest significantly with more spice and barrel. Is it worth the price increase? Well that’s for you to decide, but it’s an outstanding pour. Highly recommended.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.2 (Outstanding/Superb)

62 Comments

  1. RonY says:

    I am told here in Austin that Weller was LBJ’s drink.
    I am a Weller drinker for 50 years in Texas.
    I share Weller and Monday night Football with an old friend who is an old “Gin” player with LBJ. Weller was always on the table. Weller 12 year for me.

    I tasted-off Weller 12 vs. Van Winkle 23, over New Years at the Bourbon Tasting Bar in the Bourbon House Restaurant, Rue Iberville, French Quarter, New Orleans. VW 23 was wasted on me. I have never had VW 12 yr. Still drinking Weller 12…always open though…

  2. Benny says:

    I have had a bottle Weller 12 open for about one month now. And before I poured a glass tonight I ate a lot of flat leaf parsley, just simple on its own. Now I am drinking the Weller and has a wonderful sweetness, which I guessing is from having eaten parsley. It is very interesting how day to day I notice different tastes and smells in the same bottle of bourbon.

    Jason are your reviews based on one tasting, or more than one?

  3. Benny, I not my tasting process under the rating scale link at the top. I do at least 2, and frankly closer to 3-4 tastings. It absolutely takes me that long to pick apart a whiskey. If you take a look at any of my video reviews you’ll notice that many of them have a sizable bit out of the bottle. I will typically taste 2-3 times over a week but in some cases I’ll write notes one week, come back, taste again, and write more. But never only 1 tasting. And never the first pour out of a bottle.

  4. iskch1 says:

    Jason, thanks again for the reviews. I was able to get a 12 year old w.l Weller after many trips to the candy store. It seems that this particular version is getting harder to find.

  5. JarrettTX says:

    Jason -

    First want to say what an outstanding resource your website is for all things bourbon. I’ve never been a big whisky drinker (very heavily into craft brews), but after trying a couple of bourbon barrel aged ales and stouts in the last few winter months, I was blown away by the enhanced nose and flavor that the barrels augmented the brews with.

    I really had no idea how complex bourbons are, but your extremely comprehensive reviews piqued my interest and I finally decided to broaden my palate. I gathered that I should start out with something on the milder / wheated end, and decided on the W.L. Weller 12. WOW!

    Beautiful color and I could subside on just the nose alone (definitely get the butterscotch and caramel). I am alternating between sipping it neat and adding a few drops of water. A very enjoyable drink — thanks for sharing your positive opinion of it, which heavily influenced me to take the leap (probably my best $18.99 purchase).

    I intend to check out other selections at tastings and hopefully a “class” on bourbons that the local big box spirits/wine store is having later this year, but the other two I am already considering for my next purchase are either the Elijah Craig 12 or the Evan Williams SIngle Barrel … any thoughts on which might not be too dissimilar to the Weller (or should I stay in the wheated category, e.g., go try Maker’s, Old Fitzgerald, etc.)?

  6. JarrettTX – i consider Elijah Craig 12 and EWSB both must tries to any bourbon lover. Let me know what you think!

  7. steve miller says:

    in houston you cant not get pappy van wikles an less you pay over list pice w l weller all over place and for $25

  8. Marty Stevens says:

    Niagara Falls, NY. Tried the 18 year Pappy Van Winkle last year and it was fabulously delicious. Quite a jump from Gentleman Jack and the like. I’ve tried to get any PVW in Niagara and Buffalo and have been told to get on the waiting list (3 pages at a major liquor store in Buffalo). So I found the Weller in Niagara at only $21.00, bought it, and it really delivers. Your tasting notes are right on and giving the PVW the nod on taste is deserving, although I thought the Weller was a little closer than the 4 points.
    I’ve been involved in a craft brewed beer tasting with 7 or 8 others at a local bar, whereas, we each bring in 2 bottles of any type of beer, ale or stout and we taste them from lightest to heaviest. We’ve tasted over 170 different brews and it’s amazing to find how complex and intriguing beer brewing has become. We would never stoop to a Bud/Coors Light in the tasting, although I do enjoy one (or two) on a hot day!
    Thanks for your great review of these two great bourbons.

  9. James says:

    Quit cryin for Pappy and pick this up. Weller is incredible, a worthy replacement for the common man throne that used to sit Pappy. Weller 12 that is, not the others in the line.

  10. Mary says:

    Just a note to say that I have a new respect for Weller product! Used at a family Irish wake to bring the cousins together.

  11. DanK says:

    Love the review, and love both the WLW12 and VW12 LotB. The subtlety with which you praise both the quality and value of the Weller while acknowledging the fact that the VW is in a separate class (albeit at a separate price range) is well done.

    I enjoy wheaters more than other mashbills for the most part, and the WLW12 is a great value at $25. I also continue to be blown away by the Weller 7yr, which is an amazing QPR under $20. But the VW LotB is just on a different level as far as mouthfeel, complexity and finish. If only it hadn’t become so silly to land even a couple bottles each year…I mean, I’ve got a lot of experience landing wines/whiskeys which are extremely allocated by scouring the web, but these have become absolutely unattainable. I can’t score any VW12, 15 or 20 anywhere for less than $500, which makes a gratifying experience become guilt-laden.

    Sorry for the rant…just my $.02

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