W.L. Weller 7yo Special Reserve (45%, OB, Circa 2007)

Just like the Old Fitzgerald, W.L. Weller is a Wheated Bourbon that used to be made at Stitzel-Weller Distillery.  When that closed down, the Old Fitzgerald brand was sold to Heaven Hill and W.L. Weller was sold to Sazerac, owners of Buffalo Trace. The W.L. Weller 7yo “Special Reserve” is no more. After this one, a similar looking bottle was released, but without the 7yo age statement. Later the look was altered altogether. It’s still called “Special Reserve” and it still lacks an age statement. Other Wellers that are still around are the W.L. Weller “Antique” bottled at 53.5% ABV. and a 12yo, which is bottled at 45% ABV, just like our 7yo. Finally there is a William Larue Weller that is part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC), which is bottled annually at barrel strength, something in between 65 and 70% ABV.

W.L. Weller 7yo Special Reserve (45%, OB, Buffalo Trace)Color: Medium orange brown.

Nose: Lots of cream and toffee, very appetizing. Honey, vanilla and wood, nutty and dusty. Again toffee and warm runny caramel. Nice spicy wood in the distance even reminiscent of a dry (salty) meaty aroma, beef jerky or polish kabanosy. Sappy charred oak. Savvy and supple. Sawdust, perfumed caramel and chocolate bonbons. A hint of sweet corn and charred cask, and dare I say it, minute amounts of smoke and ashes, probably from the toasted cask. This smells like it owns it. Very well made, interesting and nice. Love how this smells.

Taste: Sweetish, nutty, fresh and well-balanced. Quite some wood influence as well as paper. Sawdust I would say. Bassetts Liquorice Allsorts and lots of vanilla ice-cream with caramel sauce on top. Small hint of dry bitter wood trailed by some, but not much, vanilla sugar sweetness. This works well and gives the Bourbon some backbone. Again, this is a very appetizing Wheated Bourbon. This is a perfect example where all the aroma’s come together nicely, but having said that, this doesn’t seem to be your most complex Wheated Bourbon. It’s very tasty in an almost simple kind of way, but I don’t consider this a daily drinker. It pack a wee bit too much for that and it deserves to be savoured.

Who said that Wheated Bourbons are light and dull? After this one I’m curious if the new “Special Reserve” comes near this one, because this 7yo is quite the winner for me. I like it a lot. I compared it to the Old Fitzgerald 12yo I reviewed earlier, but that one almost seems soapy compared to this one.

Points: 86

Old Fitzgerald 12yo “Very Special” (45%, OB)

I finished the Four Roses single barrel as well as the Old Grand Dad 114, so it’s time to open some fresh bottles. One was very easy to pick, and  that was the Old Fitzgerald 12yo “Very Special”, the next, well you’ll see later I guess. Old Fitzgerald 12yo is a Wheated Bourbon made by Heaven Hill in Louisville Kentucky. If you happen to stumble upon a very old bottling of this, or even a “Very Very Old Fitzgerald”, you’ll have a distillate of the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, worth quite some money today. The Old Fitzgerald brand was created around 1889 by Charles Herbst maybe even as early as the 1870’s. Pappy van Winkle bought the brand during prohibition and changed the mashbill of the Original Old Fitzgerald by adding “a whisper of wheat”.

As you might know, the Bourbon mashbill must have at least 51% of corn, and usually Rye is used as a secondary grain with some malted barley. For Wheated Bourbon, the Rye is substituted by Wheat. Apart from these two, also Rye Whiskey (at least 51% Rye) and Wheat Whiskey (at least 51% Wheat) exist, and of course Whiskies with both Rye and Wheat.

Old Fitzgerald 12yo VSColor: Orange brown.

Nose: Dry and dusty, cold soft ashes. Hints of glue. Dry leather, honey and soft almonds. Tiny hint of apple skin, dried out orange skin and some unripe banana. The wood itself is quite floral, like old lavender soap mixed with cocoa powder. Not a lot of spicy wood or toasted cask, even after 12 years. Quite a surprise considering the color of this Bourbon. The age dulls out the fruity notes it probably had when it was younger. Still the nose is built around a dry and dusty wood and leather notes.

Taste: Wood most definitely is the first aroma you taste. Dark cocoa powder, with soft sweetish cinnamon comes next with an elegant sweetness (corn), meaning not too much. The sweetness was toned down by the time this Bourbon spent in cask. The Whiskey goes down like a syrup, very slowly, taking its time, giving a little heat and good length in the finish. Some unbalanced acidity from the wood shows itself in the aftertaste, especially on the tongue, but it’s easy to deal with, even though it has some staying power. Even later in the aftertaste the more powdered creamy notes emerge, buttered popcorn and toffee.

It’s rumoured that Heaven Hill wants to stop making this, but that really would be a shame. It’s good stuff and definitely one you want to try if your favourite wheated Pappy Van Winkle is getting worse a bit, or becoming to expensive to enjoy properly. Also a nice one to try against some of the Weller’s that are around, which are also Wheated Bourbons.

Points: 85