Wheated Bourbon

Review: William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

WL Weller.jpg
ABV
67.3%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak; 12 Yrs
Recipe
~70% Corn; 16% Wheat; 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

This is about as big as you can get with a wheated bourbon - cask strength, oaky, and nearly 70%. Consistently terrific.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 2015 (67.3%)

  • Bottling Code: B152301238K

  • Bottling Date: 2015

This is woody! Lots of char and caramel on the nose - a bit of a reatrained nose, at first - even diluted. Creamy, candied, spicy....fennel root, stewed apples, caramelized vegetables, tobacco, oily, candle wax - quite dark, really. Very lightly floral - like light jasmine - I was expecting something in the Weller 12 category but this is quite different...

The palate is thick, sweet, and incredibly earthy - the mossy oak sort of earthiness - i love this bit. A touch of dill, and full of rich toffee and old, leathery dried apricot. The finish has a bit of mint and loads of creamy caramel and dried apricot and stewed prune. Huge, sweet, finish. Really earthy - oaky, 

It's one that begs me to be slipped slow and savour - it is nice when the whisky you are tasting takes the reins. Really nice. 

I prefer it with a bit of water in it to the mid-high 50 percent range. More complexity is revealed 

Exceptional (3% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date receive this, my highest recommendation).

Value: High (based on $130)


Review: W.L. Weller 12 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Weller 12.jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak; 12 Yrs
Recipe
~70% Corn; 16% Wheat; 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

This whisky has gone from cheap and commonplace to very hard to find, often dubbed "poor man's Pappy" because it was a well-aged wheated bourbon of high quality, but considerably cheaper and easier to find a few years ago. Now, the whisky is on allocation throughout the world due to its popularity (and rightly so; it is terrific). It tends to come through Ontario once a year, and isn't too hard to find if you watch for it....

The first time I had this, in 2012, I didn't like it because it was too confectionary - but, by the end of the bottle, I was completely converted. I have a reasonable fondness for this whisky now.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 3310252119: 34B

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Deep and rich, with apple juice and cherry alongside oak, musty corn, and a touch of mint -only this time it is all very nicely integrated as a whole. Complex and deep. On the palate, dried berries and quite tannic with all the oak influence and shows a lot of depth and sweetness. The oak is on the edge, but not enough – it is just about right with the tannin providing good structure. On the end, quite a bit of oak with a complex, enduring finish showing an array of spices which does its work well. More fresh oak emerges on the palate as it sits. Breaching on elegance.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high, based on $45.


Review: Old Weller Antique 107 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
53.5%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~70% Corn; 16% Wheat; 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

This is the second label up from the basic weller brand, still being on the relatively young side but offered at a tempting 53.5% ABV. Originally, this could only be found in Kentucky, but now it appears elsewhere from time to time. As with many Buffalo Trace bottles, it has a tendency to dissapear quickly - last year in Ottawa there were 60 bottles allocated to the city and they didn't stay on shelves more than 2 days....


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B132...

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Much more oak and force than the Special Reserve. Powerful vanilla and milk chocolate and caramel add a confectionary quality to the whisky. Dried cherries, light acidity, apricot (dried, fresh, and jam) and marshy oak as well. Thick and deep on the palate, with quite a bit of sweetness carried forward by the proof of the whisky and quite enduring on the palate. The finish is longer, and, indeed, quite a bit better than the Special Reserve. Ends with some caramel candies. Very enjoyable.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high, at $35.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 36020321171J..

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Lots of fruity candy here – grape ju jubes, caramel corn, sweet tarts, cream soda…dried corn, apricot (dried, fresh, jam), dried cherries, and lots of oak. Nice and vibrant. Still confectionary on the palate, with a good dose of dried fruit, but there is a good dose of caramel, oak, and tannin, alongside some rich corn – a touch too much. In this case, the tannins are a bit higher than the previous batch – indeed, the oak is a bit mightier. Wondering if it was too mighty, I added some water and the effect is dulled, the candy comes out – but there is still too much bitter oak. Thus, though still very good, the score drops a point – it would, for sure, be two points if it had come in at a lower proof – but good on them, it did not.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high, at $35.


Review: W.L. Weller Special Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Weller SR (2).jpg
ABV
45%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak; ~7 Yrs
Recipe
~70% Corn; 16% Wheat; 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Buffalo Trace (Frankfort, Kentucky)

This is the base expression of the Weller line of bourbons, which generally range from 7-12 years of age and are the main brand representing the wheated bourbon produced at Buffalo Trace Distillery.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: B1510310:49A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Quite bright and fruity, with cherries, apple juice, tomatoes, dried apricot, and a background of earthy, marshy corn. The fruit and the corn don't quite meet one another that well, almost making it seem like the marshiness of the corn is making the fruit taste as if it is off. On the palate, a bit bitter! The cherries continue, but the overall impression isn't great and a bit too oily. The finish is light and doesn't last long, even after the promising tingly spice at the end.

Value: Average, at $37.


Review: John E. Fitzgerald Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
Virgin Charred Oak
Recipe
~68% Corn; 20% Wheat; 12% Malted Barley
Distiller Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky)

Only three major bourbon producers regularly make a bourbon where wheat stands in as the second grain to corn, rather than rye, in the recipe – Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, and Heaven Hill. Heaven Hill makes a few products, this being the top of their line of regular production wheated bourbons. Wheat is typically associated with bringing good body and sweetness to bourbons, rather than the sharpness and spiciness of rye.

This whiskey is named after John E. Fitzgerald, who was a treasury agent during the time that the US government kept a very tight lid on all distilled spirits production to ensure both the quality of the product (and protect against counterfeits) and to keep the taxes coming in. He had the only keys to the rickhouses, and it was said that he had a great eye for the best bourbon and having some of it “dissapear” under his watch.


Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

Nose: The nose is nicely balanced – you can tell that from the first whiff. Milk chocolate, dried apricot, plums, vanilla, black pepper, cherry, cranberry, caramel, some slightly musty earthiness (this isn’t bad, in case the description isn’t appealing…), and a good bit of creaminess amidst it all. I notice more corn as it sits.

Taste: Some corn comes through quite nicely, and the creaminess comes through and it has a nice sweet backbone to it and with it, quite a decent spicy kick too! There’s also a good bit of oak, some more of that chocolate, some nice vanilla, brown sugar with a bit of butter, cinnamon, and some apple.

Finish: Creamy, with a decent bit of sweetness and some developing oak and heat in the mouth. Beautiful aged oak on the finish. I say aged oak because it has the characteristic not of fresh oak but rather much more like oak that has been sitting for a long time, like old barrel houses with old barrels that are “weathered” – if you have ever been to one. Otherwise, a bit like some oak that has been weathered a bit and is a bit mossy and earthy…pleasant, and it lingers well. And, I find some charred oak more reminiscent of fresh oak come out with some time too, adding a bit of a smoky character to the mix.

This is a very nice bourbon which is very nice to enjoy throughout – good nose, taste, and finish. In the States, this is very cheap and well worth the price, in my opinion. From time to time, this one might be a bit sweet for me, but generally it is well balanced and there is a lot going on.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high, if you can find this for about $38 CAD as I did.


Review: Maker's Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Maker’s Mark is a distillery which has been run by the Samuel’s family since 1780. The present distillery was built in 1953 by Bill Samuels after prohibition. Though his family had been in the business for some time, the whisky which was produced was not very drinkable. Bill Samuel’s wanted a return to making whisky, with a slightly different bourbon – a bit lighter and more premium than before.

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Review: Maker's Mark Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
56.7%
Aging
New Charred Oak
Recipe
70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Malted Barley
Distiller Maker's Mark (Loretto, Kentucky)

If you ever make it to Maker’s Mark distillery – an attractive and quite beautiful distillery – they let you dip your own bottles in their signature red wax. It was so with these bottles for me, after a trip down to Kentucky – a bit of a personal touch. However, really the treasure of this bottle has to do with what is inside. This whisky was only released this fall – a surprise, perhaps, for a distillery that has been long known for only having 1 brand (nearly for 50 years, before Maker’s 46 came out in 2010). Initially, it has just been sold in the distillery and in limited quantities elsewhere, but soon it will be a bit more widespread, though, undoubtedly, hard to find. As with other Maker's whiskies, it goes into the barrel at 55%.

The whisky is bottled at cask strength, or 56.7%, so either you’ll get a lot of flavour (in some cases it can be too intense), or you’re looking to add some water to this (not so bad to stretch the bottle out!). This is compared to the 45% that the standard Maker's is bottled at, or the 47% of Maker's 46. Many followers of the distillery are quite happy to see this, as many people find the standard Maker’s bottling a bit light.


Review (2014)

  • Batch: 14-02

  • Bottling Code: L143 221 1951

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Coconut jumps right out of the glass, along with some rich dried corn husks. There’s much more of an elegant feel to this one than to the other Maker’s bottlings – it is rich and very engaging. There are some sweeter fruit notes of pineapple, some rich caramel in the background, and then some apricot jam and marmelade too. Then, there’s also a very nice oaky earthiness which keeps growing – but never takes over. Mint, also is hanging about this one. Brilliant. Though rich and complicated, sometimes there’s a bit of stale bitterness coming up which is too bad.

Taste: Lots of pineapple, and a good kick of dense earthy oak alongside dark chocolate. It is big, but quite controlled and I have no trouble drinking it without any water (though I have had whisky at 86% without the need to add water, so I may not be the typical drinker). Certainly much bigger than the other two Maker’s expressions. There’s some more coconut and a light sweetness to this too – together they remind me a bit of coconut hard candies (which I don’t really like, but I like this here). Just like on the nose, there’s a touch of mint on the end and the sweetness picks up towards the end.

Finish: The oak and earthiness grow, unfolding to some pineapple, vanilla bean (a bit more intense and sweet than the typical vanilla you get), black pekoe tea, caramel, dried corn husks. It has good weight and length. The oak seems to be bordering on too much bitterness but usually doesn’t pass into anything unpleasant. Regardless, the quality is good enough that it doesn’t diminish the finish much.

It is a good whisky, for sure – and a nice take on Maker’s too because it is a much bigger whisky. Though very good, I found it wasn’t quite as balanced and put together as I was hoping. The bitter tang on the finish is unfortunate, but, as you can see from my scores, this really is very nice and, overall, it is an excellent and interesting. Compared to Maker's 46, which I also really like – it is bigger, more tannic, and sweeter. I think my choice between the two is probably mood-dependent over anything – I find 46 to be a bit softer and more elegant than this. Both are very nice, and share some melodies – but both play two very different sorts of music, and at different volumes.

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average, based on $100/750 ml.