Whiskey Review: William Larue Weller 2017

Editor’s Note: This week, we’re reviewing the 2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys. Check out our previous reviews as well: Eagle Rare 17-Year-Old, Sazerac 18-Year-Old, George T. Stagg, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye

The release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection—BTAC for short—is a hotly anticipated event in the bourbon world, and while the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is a modest $90, most people end up paying a lot more, either because they buy their bottles on the secondary market, or because their retailers mark up the bottles in response to enormous demand.

Each year’s release always has the same five whiskeys: Eagle Rare 17-year-old, Sazerac Rye 18-year-old, William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Hardy Rye, and George T. Stagg. However, each year’s blend is usually slightly different, with barrels coming from different locations in different warehouses.

William Larue Weller is the sole wheated bourbon of the Antique Collection, and a real fan favorite. The 2015 version won the nod from Jim Murray for his Bourbon of the Year in 2017. I thought last years’ was killer, and so did some other folks, so I really looked forward to tasting the 2017 version. This round was distilled in the winter of 2005 and was aged in warehouses D, I, and P. It was called out in Buffalo Trace’s press release as having “extra richness” this year, a promising sign.

The whiskey’s namesake, William Larue Weller, was an early bourbon distiller who (allegedly) was the first to swap wheat for rye in his bourbon’s mash bill. Wheated bourbons tend to a be a bit softer, a bit fruitier, and a bit sweeter than rye bourbons, and some say they stand up better to prolonged aging. Other noted wheaters include Maker’s Mark and the (in)famous Pappy Van Winkle bourbons.

William Larue Weller 2017

Tasting Notes: William Larue Weller 2017

Vital Stats: 128.2 proof, 12 years old.

Appearance: Warm, reddish amber

Nose: This is a real caramel bomb. Almost comically sweet waves of vanilla bean, caramel cream, baking cookies, and Werther’s Originals waft from the glass. It’s like walking past an ice cream shop firing on all cylinders at a seaside town in the middle of August.

With a little water, those sugary curtains lift a bit to reveal some more anchoring qualities—a little earthiness and must, a touch of roasted corn, and a warm, textured quality of oak.

Palate: Although it’s lower proof than last years’, this edition of William Larue Weller is still quite warming. The first sip reveals a gestural suggestion of figs and cherries, with a honeyed mouth feel and high toned pepper-oak tingle at the close. Still, it’s a bit closed.

A few drops of water improve matters. It’s still very warming, with a nice thick mouth feel, but now I can make out a trifecta of fresh, dried, and flamed orange zest, with a dusting of nutmeg. Sanguine minerality in the tail adds a nice edge, but the finish is over before I’m ready to see WLW leave.

The Takeaway

By any standards, this is a very nice bourbon, but it doesn’t quite come together for me the way last year’s did. The bottling proof felt a little closed, and while water helped tease out some complexity, it also trimmed the finish to just short of satisfying. If you can track this down at MSRP, go for it, but I would proceed with caution on the secondary market. Still, yet another highly pleasurable bourbon from Buffalo Trace.

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User Rating 4.2 (10 votes)
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About the author

Margarett Waterbury

Margarett Waterbury is a food and drinks writer based in Portland, Oregon. She's the managing editor of The Whiskey Wash, the managing editor of Edible Portland, and a regular contributor to local and national publications.