Weller 12 Year (2023)


Classification: Straight Bourbon

Company: Sazerac Company

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Release Date: Fall 2023

Proof: 90

Age: 12 Years

Mashbill: Undisclosed

Color: Chestnut

MSRP: $70 / 750mL (2023)

Official Website

W.L. Weller is a wheated bourbon originally created by the Stitzel-Weller Distilling Company. The brand is named after William Larue Weller, a distiller who is credited by some as being the first to use wheat as the secondary grain in straight bourbon as opposed to the more commonly used rye.

Notably, William Larue Weller hired the famous Julian Van Winkle, who would later be known as “Pappy.” Van Winkle began his career working for Weller. Weller passed in 1899, and coincidentally his company, W.L. Weller & Sons, later merged with the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery, which was owned by Van Winkle. The companies worked together through Prohibition, operating under a medicinal license, and eventually became the Stitzel-Weller Distilling Company in 1935.


Weller 12 Year embraces a traditional bourbon aroma with strong upfront scents of caramel, vanilla, and charred oak. There’s a powerful degree of sweetness to it which is further emphasized by the introduction of fruit. An amalgamation of apple, apricot, and cherry forms the high point of the sip and is extremely effective despite its straightforwardness. With touches of dry leather and sweet oak weaving their way in and out, the aroma brings just the right amount of depth, leaving you unabashedly satisfied by every part of it.


Warm red fruit comes out in droves and combines with sweet charred oak and vanilla caramel candy, making for a striking first impression. It does this seemingly with ease, as the bourbon features perfect intensity as all of its flavors work in sync. Flash and gimmicks are kept in check as this is a straight-shooting bourbon that’s devoid of such things, choosing instead to lean into what it does best: balanced flavor and pitch-perfect intensity, which results in a top-tier showing for the brand.


As is usually the case with Weller 12 Year releases, its finish hits just the right intensity. It starts soft and tempered but gently ramps up, pushing forward notes of sweet oak, cinnamon, and toasted pecans. As the heat intensifies, the bourbon’s red fruit notes return, enveloping your mouth with their warm sweet flavors. Though the finish is not overly complex, the bourbon utilizes its flavors to their maximum potential, and the results are utterly fantastic.


With age statements often returning to bottles that lost them as of late and independent distilleries coming of age and now featuring respectable age statements of their own, age isn’t necessarily the most unique trait of Weller 12 Year any longer. This year’s release is more about its flavors, overall balance, and dialed-in intensity.

There are many bourbons that share these fundamental qualities, but few get it as right as this year’s Weller 12 Year does. This is a bourbon that errs on the side of sweet fruit notes to accomplish its goal, which many bourbon drinkers will likely find very appealing. But there is always something about a brand when they are able to dial in their own flavor profile and specific qualities in a way that only they know how. The result is a product that is uniquely their own.  

I find this to be the case with especially high quality Old Forester and Wild Turkey releases that truly capture the essence of their own brand. Weller and Pappy Van Winkle are often the brands for Buffalo Trace that contain the distillery's special sauce, and this year’s Weller 12 Year release accomplishes just that. Buffalo Trace distilled whiskeys can exhibit a very particular sweet red fruit note that tends to be found in many of their best whiskeys (which just happens to be found in their wheated bourbons). These aren’t one-of-a-kind red fruit notes, but as they come together and mix with vanilla, caramel, and oak notes, the combination creates a flavor profile that stands out above other similarly flavored bourbons. Combined with expertly dialed-in intensity and balance, the result is a bourbon that is instantly familiar but tastes clearly elevated above other similar-tasting bourbons.  


When it comes to assessing Weller 12 Year’s value, you have to treat it just like any other bourbon. Those familiar with the Weller brand know that it can be difficult given its hype, scarcity, and history. Yet it's just like any other bourbon that happens to come from one of Kentucky's major bourbon distilleries: its proof point is unspectacular, and its once proud 12 year age statement is becoming more commonplace. Knob Creek 12 Year checks all of these boxes and happens to also be 100 proof, which is 10 proof points higher and could arguably equate to a higher value to some. But the two bourbons are never seen as peers, simply because Weller 12 Year has ascended to the astral bourbon pantheon hall of fame and can easily command triple its MSRP or more simply because of its name. However, the question still remains year after year; does it deserve it.

Not every release of Weller 12 Year is a home run, but more times than not, the brand puts out really good bourbon. That isn’t always the case with Weller CYPB, Full Proof, and Single Barrel releases, but Weller 12 Year tends to hit far more frequently than it misses. It does it to different degrees in any given year, but it usually comes down to amazing flavors and perfect intensity and balance. As I said in my Eljiah Craig Barrel Proof C923 review, sometimes a batch can sing and be a great value, and other times a batch can be a dud, but they still cost the same. Given the quality of this year’s Weller 12 Year release, it’s a high-value year, and if you feel compelled to spend over MSRP, 2023 would be the year and batch to do so.


A beautifully scripted bourbon featuring excellent flavors, delightful balance, and an extremely satisfying sip.

The reputation of Weller 12 Year has certainly gotten out of hand over the years, but there is usually some truth to any hyperbole. I’ve had many batches of Weller 12 Year over the years and can say I’ve never had a bad one. But the brand isn’t flawless either. It has seen some semi-average releases, but no one ever remembers those. The problem is when Weller 12 Year gets it right, it gets it really right, and that is when the hype and overblown pricing becomes exacerbated.  

Fault Buffalo Trace for their business practices all you want, but at the end of the day, the distillery has been around for a long time in one form or another, and they know how to make great bourbon. Many love sweet fruit-forward bourbon, and while some do not, there are some who believe the plethora of them is a result of bourbon going mainstream. Regardless of whether there is truth to that, it would be hard to find major faults with the 2023 release of Weller 12 Year. It’s by far not the most complex and unique bourbon in the marketplace, but the brand goes to show fantastic bourbon doesn’t necessarily have to be those things to be great. Great bourbon can come in many forms, and there isn’t a cheat sheet or formula for producers to follow to get it right. This year, Buffalo Trace got it right once again, and it's easily as good or possibly better than it's ever been.  

The sample used for this review was provided to us at no cost courtesy its respective company. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.
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Written By: Eric Hasman

December 22, 2023
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