Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Sazerac Company, Inc.
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Release Date: Late Summer / Early Fall 2019
Age: NAS (Company website states 8 years)
Mashbill: Undisclosed (Buffalo Trace “Wheated” Mashbill - Corn, Wheat, Malted Barley)
Color: Bright Gold
Price: $50 (2019)
In November 2015 Buffalo Trace Distillery launched its Craft Your Perfect Bourbon (C.Y.P.B.) website, an interactive experience that allowed people to learn about and create their own perfect bourbon. The process allows people to choose a bourbon recipe, placement in the warehouse for aging, number of years to age the bourbon, and final proof for bottling. According to Buffalo Trace, after a little over two years over 100,000 bourbon fans completed this process of crafting their own bourbon.
The majority of respondents chose a wheated bourbon recipe, aged for eight years on the top floor of the rickhouse, and then bottled somewhere between 90-99 proof. Based on this response, Buffalo Trace decided to create C.Y.P.B. under their existing Weller line which consists exclusively of wheated bourbons. The first batch was released in summer of 2018, with additional batches expected annually thereafter.
The bottle in review is from the 2019 release.
Sweet caramel and floral aromas are most prominent, with a dash of seasoned oak underneath. A swirl of the glass reveals a touch of butterscotch. The nose is lively and bright with little trace of ethanol, making for an inviting introduction to the sip.
Noticeably sweet up front, the initial burst of flavors is comprised of peaches, butterscotch, vanilla, caramel, and a hint of citrus. A moderate amount of aged oak rounds out the backend, providing just enough intensity to hint towards the bourbon’s age. The flavors are nicely balanced, making for a well-developed and very pleasant sip.
Delivering a general warming sensation at first, the finish transitions to a tapering spice as it progresses. Light seasoned oak comes into play, along with a hint of citrus. Long and quite enjoyable overall, providing more intensity of flavor than you typically get at this proofpoint. An appropriate endcap to a nicely balanced bourbon.
W.L. Weller C.Y.P.B. joins a growing list of wheated bourbons. In recent years we have seen the W.L. Weller line expand from W.L. Weller Special Reserve, Weller Antique 107, W.L. Weller 12 Year, and the limited edition William Larue Weller (also part of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), adding W.L. Weller C.Y.P.B. in 2018, W.L. Weller Full Proof in 2019, and more recently a label approval for a potential W.L. Weller Single Barrel release.
Buffalo Trace’s Craft Your Perfect Bourbon interactive online experience credited with inspiring this bourbon is a quick, fun, and educational experience for those exploring bourbon; notably it’s still available for anyone to try. I tried it years ago, and before writing this review gave it another try. I was surprised that as I progressed through the choices, three of the four lined up with the majority - a wheated mashbill (this appears to be pretty non-specific with respect to percentages), age on the top floor of the rickhouse, for eight years, and then unlike the majority I chose a higher final bottling proof. Looking back at some of the descriptors associated with the choices, I can see how some might be more appealing than others leading many down a similar path, though I think this was in the light of explanation and not necessarily intentional.
Regardless, the idea that some of the factors contributing to Weller C.Y.P.B.’s creation were based on the results of the interactive experience makes it a more interesting interplay between distillery and consumers than you typically see. Additionally, from a flavor profile perspective what makes C.Y.P.B. stand out is its balance. It comes across as more carefully constructed than the rest of the Weller lineup, and certainly more balanced than big wheated rivals like Larceny and Maker’s Mark.
C.Y.P.B. is a limited edition release, and Buffalo Trace has indicated they will only release one batch per year. To date, only two batches have been released. The interactive experience adds some value here, however the tie-in is looser than it could be with additional long term development that might include some more specific choices and greater variation of the end product from existing bourbons. It’s also a wheated bourbon, which is the less popular of the secondary grains compared to rye, however as more and more wheated bourbons come to market this trait has become less notable. All of this is presented with what I would describe as the more balanced of the Weller lineup, but not necessarily the most exciting. To that end, the asking price is more than fair.
While we assess value ratings and typically focus value discussions around MSRP, the fact that the pricing for C.Y.P.B. has gotten so out of control so quickly - even at the retailer level - is worth addressing, as some are paying upwards of $700 or more for a bottle. This price, by measure of the bourbon inside, is nothing short of pure insanity. While other factors noted above will contribute to this demand, C.Y.P.B. is at best, an above-average bourbon with a nicely developed flavor profile that will please many. So unless spending a large sum of money on a bottle is of little consequence to your bottom line, I would certainly stay within the range of MSRP on this one...that is if you’re one of the lucky few who is offered the opportunity.
W.L. Weller C.Y.P.B. was created by crowdsourcing, bringing with it an interesting story of how it came to be resulting in a carefully crafted, well-balanced but not overly exciting end result.
In tasting C.Y.P.B. I made it a point to compare it to other bottles in the Weller lineup that I had - Special Reserve, Antique 107, and 12 Year. In doing so, it revealed something I had not realized prior, which was the higher degree of balance found in C.Y.P.B. - sweet notes, oak intensity, and so on - was at least a notch above the rest. Despite this, I still find Antique 107 to be my personal favorite, followed by 12 Year, C.Y.P.B., and finally Special Reserve in a distant last place. Given the demand for these products, it is important to realize that C.Y.P.B., like the rest of the Weller lineup, is a quality bourbon but still not worth losing your mind over. This holds especially true as we have seen demand for Weller bourbons skyrocket in recent years.
I really enjoy Buffalo Trace’s Craft Your Perfect Bourbon interactive experience, and I encourage you to take a pit stop there next if you have not done so yet. Further, I hope to see more of this type of interactive bourbon-making from Buffalo Trace and others in the future. Kudos to Buffalo Trace for getting so many people interested in this level of interaction...now let’s see more of it.