*Thank you very much to AP and Buffalo Trace for the samples!
If you’d like more information on this William Larue Weller fellow, please check out my review of the 2011 Antique Collection release or my review of the W.L. Weller 12 Year Old. If not, then feel free to either read or skim over some final thoughts on this year’s Buffalo Trace Antique Collection…
As always, the Collection has its high points and its low points, but in general, this is an impressive batch of whiskeys. The Handy continues to be the weak link for me. While I recognize the brands “place” in Sazerac’s history, it’s too youthful and raw compared to the others, and does not seem worth the price. The Sazerac 18 and Eagle Rare 17 don’t offer many surprises, but are both, especially the always great Sazerac 18, worth the hunt. So is the Stagg, though this year, I was a little disappointed by this usually stellar bourbon. It was very, very good, but had wild edge to it that kept it from reaching the heights of other years. The clear winner for me this year was the wheated William Larue Weller. Full of complexity and balance, this one was a marvel from start to finish, with or without water. Compared to the previous two years’ releases, the 12 years and 3 months old 2014 William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey consisted of a broader selection of whiskeys in terms of where they were matured in Buffalo Trace’s warehouses. Some barrels came from higher warehouse floors which, compared to previous years, perhaps contributed to nearly 9% more of the original spirit evaporating and being lost to the angels.
The Nose: A tad restrained but richly sweet and complex. At first there’s maple sugar, buttery toffee, and believe or not, fresh cinnamon and sugar donuts. Fruitier notes of sticky figs and dark berry jam are joined by stone ground wheat crackers and vanilla bean. Behind that, subtle “old library” notes – polished oak, dry leather, and the ghost of sweet pipe tobacco. Spicier notes of cinnamon, holiday fruit cake, and oak chips round things out. Adding water tones down the early sweetness some and adds an earthy, almost dried leaves counterpoint.
The Palate: Hot, yes, but surprisingly drinkable at strength. More maple sugar comes early along with a little cherry cough syrup sweetness.The hard, cracked wheat from the nose is back along with lots of vanilla and candied nuttiness – cinnamon almonds and salted pecans. Wonderfully balanced by wood and spice notes; tannic, yet smooth oak, cinnamon stick, white pepper, a bit of clove, and a trace of star anise. Water smooths out the heat and deliciously draws the flavors along more languidly.
The Finish: Wonderfully lingering tannins, macerated darks fruits, toasted pecans, and spice. Slightly bitter and quite mouthwatering.
Thoughts: Fantastic. Probably the best William LaRue Weller I’ve had yet, and easily my favorite from this years Antique Collection. It’s just stunning start to finish, with water and without. Unlike the Stagg, it’s surprisingly smooth and drinkable at strength, but turns even more so with a little h2o. The flavor profile is full of the expected and the unexpected with the wood and spice balancing the sweeter notes throughout. A truly great whiskey, if you find it, buy it and drink it. Highly, highly recommended.