Review: W.L. Weller Special Reserve

My thoughts about Weller Special Reserve have changed over time.  When I first started drinking whiskey, it was one of the earliest on my radar to obtain simply because there was a decent amount of chatter about it on the whiskey and bourbon subreddits.  In fact, it was probably within my first five purchases as I lucked into Total Wine receiving a case or two on my day off.  I was walking up and down the whiskey aisle, looking for something that I had read about online that I might like to try when a gentleman came up to an employee and said “My friend just texted and said you had Weller.  Do you still have any?” and the employee told him that it was up at customer service.  I followed the man and he got his bottle and I asked if they had any more and the lady behind the counter asked “Do you want a big one or a little one?”.  Having no real idea what they cost, I asked how much for the big one and she told me it was $27.  SOLD!  I purchased my half-gallon of Weller SR and went on my way, excited by my new find.

That evening, I decided it was a good time to crack open this bad boy and see what all the fuss was about.  Upon my fist sip, I thought to myself “This is just a sweeter bourbon like everything else I’ve tasted.”  I was disappointed to say the least.  Something that had been so hyped online turned out to be nothing more than a basic bourbon.  I mean, it was alright, but I couldn’t see why everyone was so impressed by it.  As time went on, I simply used it for recipes that called for bourbon, making glazes or putting it in my holiday eggnog.  People typically gravitated to it when they wanted to try some of my whiskey and I was more than happy to give them a pour.  It wasn’t until later that I realized what I was missing.

Being the newb that I was, I did some more research and found out that part of the mystique of Weller SR had to do more with the other products they produced.  You see, it was technically in the same lineage as the illustrious Pappy Van Winkle products.  Some speculated that Weller SR was sought after because it was “kind of like Pappy” and while I don’t think that’s the case, I can entirely understand where someone new to the scene might think as such.  Whatever the reason of its popularity, it was becoming increasingly harder to find as well as becoming more and more expensive when you did stumble across it.  I’ve seen 750ml bottles range from $13.99 to $40 depending on the store and location.  I personally had no real interest in getting another bottle, so when I saw it on the shelves, or tucked behind the counter, I simply let it be and looked for something else.

It wasn’t until one night after sipping on some Knob Creek Single Barrel 120 proof that I realized how good Weller SR could be.  I finished my pour of Knob Creek and decided I’d like to mix it up a bit and have another bourbon.  Looking over my growing stash, I decided to give that half-empty bottle of Weller SR another try.  I gave myself a healthy pour and took a sip.  It was at that moment that all the flavors Weller SR had to offer came to life.  It was like drinking a sweet caramel and butterscotch sauce that coated the mouth.   The typical bourbon flavors were there as well, the oak and the vanilla, but the caramel and butterscotch flavors were phenomenal and something that early on I never even began to taste.  I was impressed.  I’m sure it was due to drinking it back to back with the higher proof Knob Creek and I’ve been able to replicate the effect time and time again by starting with a higher proof bourbon and then switching to Weller SR.  I would highly recommend trying it out if you’re not getting the caramel and butterscotch by itself.  Even after drinking regularly for a year, I still only get muted flavors unless I’m doing a back to back.

I grew to appreciate Weller SR and it has become one of a handful of bourbons in my “daily drinker” lineup.  While I didn’t understand early on, I’ve come to realize that Weller SR isn’t necessarily the best, nor is it trying to be.  It’s simply a solid bourbon for a very reasonable price.  That’s where the value lies.  You get a good tasting, 90 proof bourbon that hits most of the right notes for under $20 and in today’s bourbon market, that’s hard to beat.

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