The yearly release of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is a cause of great joy among whiskey geeks. Each fall, Kentucky's vaunted Buffalo Trace distillery releases a new version of their George T. Stagg, Eagle Rare 17 year old, William Larue Weller Bourbons and Sazerac 18 year old and Thomas Handy rye whiskeys. All of these are great whiskeys and you can't go wrong with any of them. For three of the seven years he has been writing the Whisky Bible, Jim Murray has picked one of them as his best whiskey of the year (Stagg in 2004 and 2006 and Sazerac 18 year old rye in his latest edition).
From this fall's release, the most praise seemed to go to the William Larue Weller, and since I'd never reviewed anything from the Weller line of wheated Bourbons, I thought I would check it out.
William Larue Weller Bourbon, Barrel Proof, 67.4% alcohol ($70-$120)
The nose is woody, wood paneling, wood polish, old library type stuff, a bit sweet smelling, definitely smells of old wheater, deep and thick. This thing has a huuuge, complex flavor that takes you by surprise: first a caramel-Bourbon sweetness coats your tongue, followed by some acid and then some strong wood; the mouthfeel is chewy. The finish lingers for quite a while. A little goes a long way. A fabulous, fabulous Bourbon, worth the praise and then some. One of the best recent release Bourbons I've had. If you can find it, get it.
A quick note on water -- while I enjoy most all my whiskeys neat, I know that some of you like a few drops of water. However, I would avoid water here as I found it to break apart the subtle and complex composition and bring out some bitterness, so if you can bear it, hold the water.
Prices vary quite a bit on the entire Antique Collection and they can be hard to find, but they are worth the effort.