Review: William Larue Weller 2019

I decided to stop in the store closest to my work while on my lunch break.  I typically try to swing in once a week to see what they might have that’s new and exciting, which typically isn’t much since it’s a smaller store in a rural part of Georgia.  The store has recently changed ownership and over the last couple months I have been asking the lady at the register that if they get any new allocated bourbon that they let me know when I come in.  I had been asking most recently about Old Forester Birthday Bourbon since I knew it was on the horizon and that it was starting to hit the shelves in Georgia.  I went in a couple weeks ago and the lady at the register told me they had finally gotten a bottle in.  She started to ring it up…$299.  I politely declined as that was way above my price range for something like that.  Disheartened, I went back to the car and began thinking that I would have to write this store off because they too had succumbed to the price gouging that we see all too often in the bourbon community.

A week or two went by and on a cold, rainy day during my lunch break I decided I might as well swing back in and see if they had gotten anything (it is release season after all!).  I asked what they had in the back and the lady told me they had some Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.  A fine offering if I didn’t already have a few bottles stashed at home.  I started looking around at the glass case and noticed a familiar looking bottle in the back.  I asked if she could get it out and lo and behold, it was a bottle of 2019 William Larue Weller.  Knowing my previous experience with the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, I reluctantly asked for her to check the price, fearing that I would be telling her to just put it back.  She scanned the barcode and the display lit up with $169.99.  Sold.  I don’t understand their pricing decisions, but this is what I would consider a fair markup for a store on a highly sought after allocated bottle.  I believe WLW retails for $99 or $109 in Georgia and I’m more than happy to pay an extra $60 on a bottle that I know would cost $700+ on secondary.  New bottle in hand, I happily left to finish out my day at work.

Upon arriving home, I decided to make a short video of me opening the bottle to post to my Instagram.  The idea being that a lot of people that purchase these bottles never have any intentions of opening them, whether they’re a collector or someone that just wants to flip them for a quick buck.  I wanted to show that sometimes when you get one of these highly sought after bottles, the best thing you can do is open the thing and drink it.

So without any more complaining about the “bourbon game” and shameless Instagram plugging, let’s get on to how it tastes.  This is a 12 year 6 months aged Weller expression bottled at 128 proof.  Upon popping the cork, if you immediately take a whiff of the bottle, you’re met with the unmistakable smell of chocolate.  Pouring into my Glencairn, the chocolate is subdued and oak and cherries make their way to the forefront.  The nose alone reminds me a bit of Stagg (Jr. and Sr.), probably a combination of the high proof and prevalent cherry notes.  Taking my first sip, I’m met with a sweet burst of cherries on the front of the tongue that turns to chocolate and seasoned oak as it travels around my mouth.  There’s a certain richness in all of it that I quite enjoy.  It drinks well under its proof and I would have been surprised to learn it was 128 had I not already known.  The finish is long, with lingering notes of chocolate, a hint of vanilla and a nice warming mouthfeel.  Overall, top notch all around.

WLW is unlike the rest of the Weller standard lineup and barring the name, you might not even see any real connection.  There’s no overwhelming caramel like in the Special Reserve and the cinnamon I get with Antique is missing.  Weller 12 is probably my least favorite of the standard lineup as it really doesn’t excel at any one particular thing and ends up being just a really decent wheated bourbon that is now plagued by the increased prices and to me, loses all of its value as a good midrange bourbon.  WLW stands towering above the rest and is an amazing pour of bourbon.  I wish bourbons like this were more accessible and it didn’t take knowing someone that will hold you a bottle, blind luck (in my case) or exorbitant amounts of cash to purchase off the secondary market.

So for my two cents on the matter, I would say if you can get a bottle for under $200, it may be worth it for you.  This is hands down one of the best bourbons I’ve ever had and I think that to someone with a similar palate as mine, you may enjoy it enough to warrant the purchase of a bottle.

I feel like the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection may be slightly undervalued at $100 for a yearly release of premium aged bourbons and rye.  These are going to be the cream of the crop from Buffalo Trace and as a result, they’re going to command a premium price.  I say under $200 because restaurants and bars around here tend to charge between $20 and as high as $65 for a pour of BTAC.  I’m sure that there may be some “honey holes” that have them more reasonably priced, but I’m sure there are probably more closer to that $65 range.  The cheapest I’ve seen WLW at a bar has been $40 for a 1.5oz pour, so $200 for an entire bottle doesn’t sound all that bad, does it?

Normally I try to examine a bottle based on what I see as perceived value.  It’s really hard to determine just what that is when it comes to very rare bottles like these as they’re going to almost never be found at retail at this point in the bourbon world and that’s IF you can even find one at all.  As a result, I would say to ask yourself if given the opportunity to snag one for $200 or less if you’d rather have one $200 exceptional bourbon or 3-4 very good midrange bourbons.

Here’s to hoping that everyone gets a bottle off their unicorn list this release season and if you do, open it and share it with friends like it’s meant to be.  Cheers!

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