When it comes to bourbon hunting one of the biggest booms over the past 5 years or so has been the Weller lineup. With a reputation for their similarities to the Pappy Van Winkle line up, the three Wellers have gone from easy retail finds to lottery bourbons that you may have better luck paying 2-3x the retail price tag on the secondary market. Of the three, Weller Special Reserve carries the lowest price tag, proof, and estimated age – the bottle no longer carries an age statement, but general consensus is that it is still around 7 years. Although the official MSRP from Buffalo Trace is $17.99, you likely won’t see it on a shelf for less than $25 (If you see it on a shelf at all, that is). Do a quick search on the usual secondary markets, and you’ll come across bottles going for closer to $40.
What makes the Weller line up so special? For starters, all three use Buffalo Trace’s wheated mashbill, which is also used for the WL Weller BTAC release and the Van Winkle line up. Just a few years ago these bourbons (particularly Old Weller Antique and Weller 12) were somewhat of a hidden gem among whiskey drinkers – great bourbons with a similar profile to the Van Winkle lineup but much more cost friendly and accessible. But when word gets out about a great bourbon at a great price, the same thing always happens…demand and sale price skyrocket. So a word of caution, as soon as Fred Minnick starts talking about how great your favorite bourbon is…go buy a case or two because it’s bound to either disappear or double in price.
- ABV: 45%, 90 Proof
- Age: NAS, thought to be around 7 years
- Company/Distillery: Sazerac / Buffalo Trace
- Mash Bill: Unknown, Wheated
- Price: $25 / 750 mL
Nose: Caramel and Vanilla sweetness, little bit of Dark Cherry, Low Alcohol Presence
Taste: Smooth mouthfeel, predominately Caramel and Vanilla, with hints of Dark Fruit and a bit of Toffee
Finish: Fairly long with a bit of a bite on the back end, slightly Nutty with a little more Vanilla and Toffee
Overall: If you can find Weller Special Reserve at the MSRP of $17.99, it’s a solid buy – a textbook example of a wheated bourbon that hits all of the right notes, but doesn’t necessarily stand out against others in the category (or others carrying the same namesake). In my opinion, it’s not something worth seeking out on the secondary market or paying well above MSRP for. I picked up this particular bottle for around $25, and I’d say that’s just a bit overpriced. It may share the same namesake and mashbill, but I wouldn’t put Special Reserve anywhere close to its siblings, Old Weller Antique and Weller 12 Year on my list of favorites. If you love wheated bourbons, particularly those on the lower proof side, Weller Special Reserve is worth grabbing if you find a bottle under $25. Trust me though, there are better bourbons to spend a Saturday morning waiting in line for – and many of those you won’t need to stand in line for.