Classification: Straight Bourbon
Distillery: Buffalo Trace
Release Date: Summer 2022 (Annual Release)
Age: NAS (Aged at least 4 years per TTB regulations)
Mashbill: Undisclosed (Buffalo Trace “Wheated” Mashbill - Corn, Wheat, Malted Barley)
MSRP: $50 (2022)
Weller Single Barrel is Buffalo Trace’s next permanent addition to its Weller brand line since Full Proof in 2019. According to the company’s press release, the company acknowledges a wealth of options for their rye bourbons (e.g. Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Stagg Jr. George T. Stagg and E.H. Taylor, Jr.), and was looking to further expand their wheated bourbon options. Buffalo Trace had a Weller Single Barrel release planned for a while, and was finally able to release it to market in 2020. Weller Single Barrel joins the Weller line up of Weller Special Reserve, Weller Antique 107, Weller 12 Year, Weller Full Proof, Weller Craft Your Perfect Bourbon (CYPB), and William Larue Weller, which is part of the company’s Antique Collection.
A beautiful aroma of sweet summer fruits is immediately gripping. Potent strawberries with layers of cherry, raspberry, and lemon are quite striking for any bourbon, let alone one with the name “Weller” on its label. Beyond this lies scents of rich vanilla and mature oak that cements its overall effectiveness. The nose works in every way; sweet, fruity, rich, and potent, culminating in an aroma that will make you love it.
Much of the summer fruits continue into the palate, but they are a degree more muted and less sweet in comparison. That’s probably a good thing as the nose suggested this was potentially going to be sickly sweet. Instead, it delivers a flavor profile dominated by a strong cherry note. Cinnamon and raspberry commingle, carrying much of the palate through to the finish. There’s plenty to like and enjoy, but nothing to completely fall in love with.
As the palate’s sweetness fades, the bourbon’s dryness reveals itself. Dominated by oak and leather, the bourbon becomes much more narrow in its focus. Additional notes of chestnut, plum, and deep cherry settle in, keeping in line with the style of the finish. It works, but has much less of a WOW factor compared to its nose and more broadly, the brand as a whole. The finish is a much more traditional, and arguably, a boring tasting experience overall.
Weller in all of its forms has never stood out because of its uniqueness. It's a classic style wheated bourbon with a few minor differences between its many iterations. It’s good at what it does and so far has stayed in its lane more times than not. With Weller Single Barrel being its latest incarnation, it is similar in its styling to Weller 12 Year with a few minor differences. The first is its extreme fruit-forward nose compared to other Weller releases and even compared to the wider range of bourbons produced by Buffalo Trace. The palate keeps with the typical Weller flavor profile, while the finish is a bit more dry and oaky though not exclusively so. Its proof also falls in the middle of Weller's current lineup, with Special Reserve, and 12 Year at 90, CYPB at 95, Antique 107 at 107, and Full Proof at 114.
With most major brands releasing a single barrel version of their brands, it is notable that Weller was a major holdout in this space for so long. Possibly due to its pedigree, or Buffalo Trace reserving single barrels for their private selections for stores and groups, it felt like it's taken forever for a standard non-pick Weller single barrel to happen. Now that it has, it's what you’d expect it to be, possibly even a little less so. It maintains its grip on a classic bourbon style and offers little beyond that to truly stand out.
How do you talk about value when it comes to Weller bourbons? Due to Buffalo Trace’s tight allocations and rabid consumer demand, few are able to purchase a bottle at MSRP. What is noticeable about Weller Single Barrel is its jump in price to $50, which is in line with CYPB and Full Proof, but considerably higher than Special Reserve, Antique 107, and 12 Year. This price point also puts it near or slightly below where other companies price their single barrel releases. Buffalo Trace is known for undercutting other distilleries’ prices, but it's interesting to see it much more in line this time. Sadly, the reality is that the far majority of customers will see Weller Single Barrel for an inflated price, either from a store or the secondary market. With single barrels seeing a much more diverse and less constant level of quality simply by their very nature, I’d move with caution based on my particular single barrel. It is barely an average value at its MSRP, and certainly not for its secondary prices. But if you’re in the market to purchase a Weller product to open and drink, I’d take the lower priced Weller 12 Year by comparison any day.
With the Weller brand known for its quality (especially in its 12 Year and Full Proof form), one would expect a single barrel version to perform equally well, but this single barrel proves that isn’t always the case.
Like many fans of the Weller brand, I always wanted to taste it in its single barrel form. I had my hunches that blending played a big part in what made the Weller brand - especially the 12 Year - work. While this is only one single barrel in which to corroborate my theory, it is revealing nevertheless. Its 97 proof also doesn’t do this bourbon any favors, but it’s high enough to show how even-keeled Weller bourbon is. Sure this single barrel is a little rougher around the edges, as its palate and finish lacks any real highs and lows in its non-blended state. It's much more straightforward, perhaps more sweet and fruity too as a result.
The Weller brand doesn’t have an immaculate track record that its secondary prices may lead some to believe. I’ve had more great Weller 12 Years and Full Proof bottles than bad, but just as many boring CYPB, Antique, and Special Reserves. The chase and high secondary prices for Weller Single Barrel could make one believe it’s the best of its pack, but single barrels can be tricky. They are fascinating in what they reveal about a particular brand, but pose a do or die style in how they deliver. For comparison sake, single barrels of Buffalo Trace Bourbon and Eagle Rare have just as much of a chance to stand out and are likely to be easier to find and cost less. Weller Single Barrel is a solid bourbon throughout, that has moments of pure charm, followed by moments of unfortunate stodginess. At MSRP, my single barrel was justifiable, but not memorable. Any higher and I would have been extremely let down. It's a bourbon that has a low floor, high ceiling. You’re all but guaranteed a solid bourbon, but how great it goes from there can be vast.