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Review: 2011 William Larue Weller Bourbon

It’s perhaps the most highly anticipated release of the year in American Whiskey. Each Fall the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) releases a line up of five whiskeys; George T. Stagg Bourbon, Eagle Rare 17 Bourbon, Sazerac 18 Rye Whiskey, Thomas H. Handy Rye Whiskey, and the subject of this review, William Larue Weller. Supply and demand are clearly good for business because these whiskeys can be tough to come by. Some might suggest you have to have compromising pictures of your local spirit merchant to even get a bottle or two. I say just make friends and/or be a great customer and that usually helps.

William Larue Weller is made from a wheated bourbon mashbill (grain recipe) that contains no rye grain. It’s a similar (likely exactly the same) recipe as used in Pappy Van Winkle.

2011 William Larue Weller Bourbon, 66.75% abv (133.5 Proof), $80/bottle

Color: Mahogany, deep amber

Nose: Dark dried fruits (dates, raisins), Fruitcake, toasted almonds, cocoa, and creamy cafe au lait. This is one where a splash of water releases beautiful roasted notes of coffee beans and saddle leather.

Palate: Dark and sultry. Toffee, roasted and caramelized nuts (slightly burned?), candied fruits, black coffee, bitter dark chocolate, and clove. The balance of sweet, rich, spicy, and bitter is just outstanding.

Finish: Chocolate caramels, concentrated berry syrup, toasted oak and vanilla.

Overall: Clearly one of the three best whiskeys I’ve sipped this year thus far, but I do hate the fact that this stuff is so damn tough to get. I can’t believe they don’t have more of this to get to the public. Keep searching though because this is without question an Epic whiskey. It’s the best William Larue Weller of the last 2-3 years for sure, and based on the three I’ve tasted from the collection this year (Stagg and Handy), it’s the best so far in my opinion.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.6 (Epic/Classic)

38 Comments

  1. Wow… Just reading your tasting notes, this sounds phenomenal. Will have to keep an eye out for this one!

    Glad to see someone doing video — you’ve got a gorgeous room to do it in, it looks.

  2. Ford says:

    A newbie with no established relationships with store owners, I was still well aware of when BTAC would hit the shelves. Amazingly, I found a bottle of Handy and Stagg at Bevmo! No luck on the others though. Now hoping for the same good fortune with Pappy, which should hit California any time now. Thanks for another enjoyable review.

  3. sam k says:

    This one doesn’t seem to show up in PA, same with the Sazerac, but I’ve always hoped to snag one somewhere. What we do get are all available for $60 (with no price gouging since it’s a control state), so they’re excellent deals…we just don’t get them all.

    The Eagle Rare was the last to sell out here, but there’s still plenty of Handy on hand…100 as of this morning, available online if you’re a PA resident.

    http://www.lcbapps.lcb.state.pa.us/webapp/Product_Management/psi_ProductInventory_Inter.asp?cdeNo=9458

  4. Josh Scott says:

    Great review as always Jason. Looking forward to opening my bottle. :-D

  5. SteveBM says:

    Man, this one is the only one Total Wine & Spirits doesn’t carry (at least at my location) so I usually pass. I found a bottle at another store nearby last year so maybe I’ll try again based on your recommendation. Thanks

  6. Terry says:

    I haven’t tried the 2011 version yet, but the 2010 WLW is a knock out. Any thoughts on the comparison between the two, Jason? I just picked up the 2011 Stagg and Pappy 20. Looking forward to seeing how they all stack up next to eachother.
    terry

  7. Ford says:

    Just scored a bottle of the Weller! Check random stores on a whim, you never know. Can’t wait to try it tonight. Half the fun is the chase!

  8. Matthew says:

    Will you be posting any vertical reviews of BATC’s Weller or Stagg, maybe a few vintages of Pappy 15?

  9. Rajesh says:

    JAson,
    Outstanding review – now to try and find some of this…I did acquire a bottle each of the WLW from 2009 and 2010 – might be interesting to compare…

  10. Nate Cleveland says:

    Jason-
    I made a comment on your “Public Service Announcement” post about my difficulty in finding PVW 15 here in Las Vegas. I’ve been pushing my local store to carry a broader selection of bourbons – and imagine my shock when last night I stopped in and found a bottle of PVW 15 AND a bottle of WLW!! Hurt my wallet, but I’m glad to have them both! I was a little bummed to hear that the 2011 PVW 15 is not from Stitzel-Weller stock, though. Which one should I open first?!?

  11. Nate, you are lucky man. Enjoy. I say crack em both and do a side by side!

  12. Rajesh let me know what you comparison yields. Sounds like fun to me.

    Matthew, I will be doing a 2011 15 and 20 year pappy review in the coming week. Hope to have one for Stagg. I’ve only gotten a taste of Stagg so far (2 pours actually), so I’m waiting for my bottle for a review.

  13. Terry the 2010 Weller is excellent – it’s close between the two, but slight nod to 2011 for me. Thanks for the comment.

  14. Good info Sam for those in PA. Thanks for posting!

  15. Anorak1977 says:

    Jason,

    I haven’t opened my bottle of 2011 Stagg yet. How do you think it compares to last year’s?

    According to the fact sheets, both the 2010 and 2011 releases were distilled in the Winter of 1993, and the ’11 is roughly one year older and very close in proof (0.2%) so I’m guessing they just aged the 2010 barrels a year longer for this fall’s release.

    OTOH, the 2011 Saz. 18 is nothing short of brilliant! Hands down the best rye I have ever tasted.

  16. I think last years bottle is better honestly – but that’s off the cuff, and only by a slight slight margin. It’s still excellent.

    I’ve heard such great things about the Saz18. Lots of folks are loving that one. I’ve had a hard time sourcing a bottle. I hope to soon though.

    I appreciate all of the comments. Cheers!

  17. Rajesh says:

    Jason,
    This is another example of what makes this blog so great – and I’m sure it’s a sentiment that many will echo – further to Anorak1977′s comment – I did manage (finally – after 3 years of hunting) to lay my hands on a bottle of Saz 18 (2011 release) and am very interested in seeing how it stacks up against some other (pardon the expression) ‘comparable’ ryes — I’ve only recently started off on rye whiskies and and think that what David Perkins (High West) has put out are phenomenal — having tried both Rendezvous Rye and Double Rye.
    How do you think that the Saz 18 would compare against some of High West’s similarly aged whiskies – the 16 yr or 23 year ?
    Sounds like you’re meeting w/ considerable success acquiring this year’s BTAC — good on you !
    I am looking forward to hearing your views on the 2011 Stagg and more so the PVW20.

    Once again — great work and thank you !

    –Rajesh

  18. Anorak1977 says:

    Rajesh:

    Check out the fact sheet PDF’s available at greatbourbon.com — BT’s official website for the products. You’ll find the info on the Sazerac 18 very interesting. It was distilled in 1985 and moved into some sort of stainless to halt the aging process in the early 2000s. So, even though it doesn’t age in the bottle, it’s some pretty old stuff! Knowing the provenance of it would be very interesting, indeed!

    You can taste the sophistication of it immediately upon the first pour. The 2011 Pappy 15 required a day of oxidizing for me before it “opened up”. The Saz18 (and the Pappy 20) were both brilliant from the first glass.

  19. Anorak1977 says:

    As far as finding these bottles without much difficulty… a bit of luck always helps, but I can’t emphasize enough what’s been said here and elsewhere, and that is to develop a relationship with a store owner over a period of time. Attend tastings, etc… and these become a lot easier to get hold of.

  20. Rajesh says:

    Anorak1977,
    You’re right about saying that the provenance of Saz18 is intriguing — that can be another post in itself – and while I don’t want Jason to think that his WLW post is being hijacked into a Saz 18 post – there’s some rather interesting reading to be had around Saz 18 posted a few years ago by John Hansell…this was indeed distilled in 1985 and BT expects it to last until 2015 or thereabouts when the ‘new 18 year’ rye will be ready…

    http://www.whiskyadvocateblog.com/2008/01/10/inside-scoop-sazerac-rye-18-year-old/

    Cheers !

  21. Rajesh, Hijack away man – good discussion. The Saz 18 is one that I am trying to find, and damnit it it’s not hard right now.

    Here’s what’s funny – I’ve got 3 bottles of Pappy 15 2011 and 1 20 year bottle and it has been an act of congress to get a bottle of Stagg and Saz 18 from 2011. It’s harder to find Stagg than Pappy for me at least.

    Cheers to you all this Friday evening. Enjoy a great pour. I’m sipping a comparison of the 15 year olds (old vs. new or 2 olds vs. new rather). More to come!

  22. Rajesh says:

    Jason, Are you making the tastings of this trio of 15 year old PVW the subject of a future post ? (Grin)
    It’s interesting how things pan out when it comes to acquiring these wonderfully hard to get whiskies – i was in a local store a week or so ago and saw 2 bottles of Stagg (2011) sitting next to an identical number of WLW – the interesting thing there is that this same store was upset that they didn’t get as much as they would have liked of the VW brands…
    Enjoy the PvW 15 !

    Cheers….

  23. Anorak1977 says:

    Jason: the place I buy my stuff from in RI has a bunch of Stagg, and last I checked, 3 bottles of Saz18. I believe they do mail order. Shoot me an email.

  24. Rajesh, a tasting of a duo of 15s and a 20 to come. Should be fun!

  25. Jim says:

    Unfortunately both my 2010 Weller and 2010 Stagg are gone and I cannot compare them to the 2011. Going from memory, I believe that I like the 2011 of each a little better than the prior year.

    Just wondering – have you ever compared the ‘regular’ 10 yr old Eagle Rare to the 17 yr old Eagle Rare in the BTAC?

    Keep up the great work!

  26. Jim, I have not yet reviewed Eagle Rare 17 on the site, but I hope to soon. Thanks again for your suggestion this week – great idea!

  27. Anorak1977 says:

    Jim:

    Glad to hear you enjoy the 2011 GTS. Most everyone I have spoken to seems to prefer the 2010 Stagg. I haven’t opened my 2011 yet, but batch variation can be a good thing!

  28. Alan says:

    Great review Jason.
    Scored a bottle the other day! Looking forward to cracking it over the holidays with my son-in-law to toast my first grandchild!

  29. Enjoy Alan – great bourbon!

  30. Jason, great notes, I agree that this is a great bourbon. My take is a bit different than yours (we all have different taste buds!), the nose is indeed epic, but I felt it didn’t fully deliver on that epic nose. Still great.

    Comparison notes vs. Pappy 15 (that OTHER whetted bourbon coming out of BT) at http://www.thirstysouth.com/2011/12/08/pappy-van-winkle-vs-william-larue-weller/

  31. Anorak1977 says:

    Thirsty,

    I read your comparison. However, most of us are concerned with the Fall 2011 Pappy 15 with the BT juice, not the Spring allocation of bottles from 2009.

  32. Mr. Pyle,

    I found your website a few days ago while looking for… well basically exactly what your site offers. As a huge cigar enthusiast (and cigar review blogger myself) I wanted a similar format for Bourbon reviews. I’m a big Scotch enthusiast, but as a southerner, Bourbon has been ever-present. Thanks for your fantastic blog and the excellent information here.

    About the William Larue Weller… after watching and reading your review, I went to the local ABC store (Virginia gubbmint run liquor sto’) and got my name in the hate for all of the Buffalo Trace Antiques, and the clerk goes “Oh, I have some Van Winkle in the back, if you’re familiar with that” … I couldn’t say “I’ll take them” fast enough.

  33. Bmac says:

    Well, I confirmed for myself that Dallas TX did NOT receive 2011 William Larue Weller. I found a bottle just before Thanksgiving and it was a 2010 release (based on proof). I had felt that the owner had somehow swapped a bottle of the old for the new because the 2011 had received an award of the 3rd best whiskey in the world (by Jim Murray’s opinion.) However, today that store is now vindicated. I found a hole in the wall location that had the entire 2011 set (minus the Sazerac 18). I got the Stagg, the Egale Rare, and ….. (sigh) yet another bottle of William Larue Weller…..at….2010 proof. :( WHY!?!? Did they only have a limited number of the 2011 but had some back stock of the 2010? I am confused. I have a mind to send a message to Buffalo Trace’s Management and ask them what happened!

  34. DeanE says:

    Jason,

    Huge fan of your reviews and website! I have a plan in motion to secure a 2011 bottle, but it’s costly. In your comments about 2011 PVW 15 you mentioned it is the same recipe as the WLW. I already have a couple bottles of PVW 15. You rated both very highly. Is the WLW end product distinct enough to merit the extra cost and effort to obtain it?

    Thanks

  35. Brent says:

    I was in a store recently that had 2011 release of stagg, wlw, and a bottle of saz18. Since I can only get one, which one should I obtain. I am fairly new to bourbon. My most recent purchase was a KY Vintage 17 yr.

  36. DeanE says:

    Brent,

    I’ve sampled the Sazerac and Stagg. If you’re anywhere near Covington, KY, the Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar had Stagg a little over a month ago. I lean more toward bourbons, so I greatly preferred the Stagg. Finding even a sample of WLW has proven daunting, so I’d pick that one, but you may want to read the reviews here and elsewhere and pick what sounds most interesting for your tastes.

  37. Brent says:

    Dean, thanks for the info. I have since purchased the Stagg and the Weller. Come to find out the Stagg was a 2010 bottle and the Weller was a 2007. I’m excited to try the Weller as it has a lower proof than other uncut, unfiltered bottles.

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  1. [...] Larue Weller Bourbon; and this year’s release was met with some tremendous reviews from bourbon enthusiasts. I was lucky enough to get my hands on exactly one bottle of this year’s William Larue [...]