EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Old Weller Antique

Review: Old Weller Antique Straight Bourbon

Owned by Sazerac Company, Old Weller Antique Kentucky Straight Bourbon is distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery and bottled at 53.5% ABV.

Price Range: Normally $20-$25 however, limited allocation has caused retail prices to skyrocket to $48 for a bottle.

Old Weller Antique is a "wheated" Kentucky Straight Bourbon which means it uses wheat as its secondary flavoring grain as appose to rye. While neither Sazerac nor Buffalo Trace disclose their mashbills it is thought the wheat portion ranges between 10-20%. 

In 2009 Old Weller Antique dropped its 7 Year ages statement which did not seem to hurt the quality of the juice in the bottle. However, as the craze for Pappy Van Winkle reached a fever pitch, word began to spread that Pappy shared the same exact mashbill as the Weller line of bourbons and that they were considerably less expensive. Three years ago when I organized a blind tasting of whiskey's $20 and under, you could still find Weller Special Reserve and Old Weller Antique even though the Weller 12 Year Old had virtually disappear from retails shelves and stores were put on a strict allocation. Not so any more. While one is more likely to find a bottle of Weller Special Reserve, Old Weller Antique had become increasingly harder to find and as a result the retailers who do carry it have started charging a lot more. The day after I finished the last drops of my bottle of Old Weller Antique I was elated to see a local grocery store had two bottles for sale. Now however, instead of costing around $20, the store was charging $48 per bottler. That's more than a 200% price increase in just three years!

My hope is that in a few more years when the increased kentucky bourbon production begins to age out and be bottled that both prices and supply will stabilize. But, in the near term it seems likely that scarcity and price increases will continue.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: In the glass Weller Antique smells of caramel, sweet cherries, candied apple, vanilla, cinnamon, and varnished wood. While the alcohol is noticeable (at 107 proof one would expect that) on the nose it isn't over powering.

Palate: The palate is rich and smooth with no heat on the tongue but it does warms up your chest. The bourbon is sweet up front with notes of caramel and vanilla which are balanced with oak. Mid palate is full of baking spice and dried cherries with a slight bitterness from the oak tannins on the back end.

Finish: The finish is long. Oak tannins and dryness linger with notes of cigar tobacco and sweet corn.

Conclusion: Old Weller Antique is a very well balanced wheated bourbon and a great value at $20. From the first time I drank this bourbon quickly became my favorite wheated bourbon beating out both Makers Mark and Larceny. That being said the for my tastes, the bitterness that comes through from the oak makes it hard for me plunk down $50 to get a new bottle in the current environment. However, if and when Weller Antique returns to a more sane price, I will definitely grab a bottle.

 

Blind Whiskey Tasting $20 and Under

In June, David Driscoll of K&L Wines wrote a series of post called “Drinking to Drink.” While the series touched on a number of things, one of the themes was how whiskey drinkers often correlate price with enjoyment.  Driscoll argued that just because one whiskey is $80 doesn't mean that a drinker will enjoy it four times more than a $20 bottle.  In that same vein he suggested that there were a number of quality whiskeys that could be had for $20 and enjoyed more regularly without breaking the bank. After reading this series, I was inspired to organize a whiskey tasting of bottles that retailed around $20 or less.  I was curious to find out if there was a whiskey that I had overlooked simply because it lived on a lower shelf in the liquor aisle.

With some help from another post by Driscoll and my own mental list, I put together a list of six whiskies around $20 for the tasting.

  1. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
  2. Old Weller Antique Bourbon
  3. Jim Beam Black Label Bourbon
  4. Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon
  5. George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whisky
  6. Bank Note Blended Scotch Whisky

I know that Bulleit Bourbon can also be found on sale for under $20 but my friends and I are pretty familiar with it so I decided to leaving it out of the tasting.  I also decided to conduct the tasting blind. That there are a number of factors that can sway the perception of how good a beer, wine or spirit is based on external factors like, what shelf it's on in the store, label design, bottle shape and price.  I wanted to get an honest assessment of the contents of the bottles without being swayed by some of those external factors, so I had my wife wrap all the bottles in brown paper bags before the tasting.

The night of the tasting a friend of mine hosted the event and provided glasses, snacks and still water. We tasted the spirits in random order in glencairn glasses, neat, at room temperature.  We each took notes about what we tasted and gave each spirit a rating.  Once everyone had tasted all the whiskeys we revealed each whiskey from lowest to highest score.

 The undisputed favorite of the evening was Evan Williams Black Label, the least expensive whiskey, which retails at my local Safeway for $9.99.  I had tasted Evan Williams only once before a few months prior and I thought it would do well in the tasting but I didn't expect it to come out on top. Next came Buffalo Trace and Old Weller Antique.  I wasn't that surprised that these did well for the whole group but personally I was shocked that I had rated Old Weller above Buffalo Trace. This surprised me because I really like rye whiskeys and I have never been a fan of Maker's Mark. I assumed that this meant that I didn't like wheated bourbons and that I preferred bourbons with rye in their mash bill over wheat.  But even at 107 proof, I felt like Old Weller was more balanced and had more character compared to the 90 proof Buffalo Trace.

Dickel, Beam and Bank Note finished in the lower half.  Bank Note is a blended Scotch, and for the price I still think it is pretty good but I suspect that compared to all the bourbons it stood out like a sore thumb, and not it a good way.  The results that evening are exactly why I like to do blind tastings.  My assumptions about what I do and don't like were challenged and as a result I now have two new favorite whiskeys under $20: Evan Williams, and Old Weller.