Buffalo Trace Distillery introduced W.L. Weller 12 Year Bourbon in 2001 to very little fanfare for about $20. Now, 21 years later, it’s one of the most coveted wheated bourbons in the game, routinely going for hundreds above its $40-$45 MSRP. Of course, the ongoing Pappy Van Winkle craze is partially to blame for this. Weller 12 used to be the “affordable” pick for wheaters who wanted a taste of high society. Rumor has it that Weller 12 and Van Winkle Lot B are basically the same juice (same mash bill, age, and proof) with different bottling (Van Winkle selects the Lot B, while Buffalo Trace selects the Weller 12). The Van Winkle family partnered with Buffalo Trace about 20 years ago to produce, age, and bottle all of its whiskeys.
Interestingly enough, Weller 12 made an appearance on the current season of TV’s Yellowstone. Anyway, enough of a preamble. Let’s review Weller 12.
At a Glance
- Distillery: Buffalo Trace
- Location: Frankfort, Kentucky
- Style: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
- Proof: 90
- MSRP: $40
- Website | Instagram
Review: What We Say
|Nose||Vanilla, Caramel, Light Oak, Sweet Fruit|
|Palate||Vanilla, Caramel, Oak, Cherry, Light Orange, Light Cocoa|
|Finish||Sweet, Rich, Harmonized, Medium-Long Finish|
|What You Can Expect to Pay||$200-$300|
|Buy It: Now, Soon, Later, Never||Now…if you can find it under $100|
More so than just about any bourbon I can think of right now, Weller 12 should be the case study for “what you smell” is “what you taste.” The nose and palate are remarkably similar. Well, maybe similar is the wrong word choice. They are remarkably harmonized. Vanilla, caramel, light oak, and sweet fruit on the nose. And then—boom. On the palate, vanilla, caramel, and light oak. And while I couldn’t pinpoint the fruit on the nose, Weller 12 has a subtle cherry undertone on the palate with a little bit of orange and just a hint of cocoa.
At 90 proof, it doesn’t clobber you with “proof” heat, but the maturity of Weller 12’s age is present on the balanced finish as you get just a tinge of warmth. The finish on Weller 12 reminds me of the rich, sweet marrow of osso buco—it just melts in your mouth. Phenomenal.
What Buffalo Trace Says
As part of the wheated bourbon family, this 12-year-old W.L. Weller is aged far longer than most wheated bourbons. This offering is a smooth, easy-going and balanced bourbon with a beautiful deep bronze color.
Neat. End of discussion. It’s the quintessential wheated bourbon (without a Van Winkle surname).