Thursday, November 5, 2015
Dusty Thursday: Weller Special Reserve 1945/1952
Every fall, I have a backyard bourbon blowout party called Gazebo West. Named for a party started by bourbon fans in Kentucky, I held my first one four years ago, asking everyone to bring a bottle of something to share. It quickly mushroomed with more friends and more bottles, and now it's a pretty amazing tasting with people bringing fun new stuff as well as digging deep into their collections. It's one of my favorite nights of the year.
One of this year's most exciting bottles came from LA Whiskey Society founder Adam Herz. Adam can always be counted on to bring the good stuff. This year, he brought us a bottle of W.L. Weller Special Reserve distilled at Stitzel-Weller in 1945 and bottled in 1952. It's bottled in bond, so it's 100 proof.
W.L. Weller Special Reserve, 7 years old, 50% abv
This bottle is in fantastic condition for something this old. The fill level was high, meaning it hadn't suffered from evaporation, and the cork came out like new. We were surprised that it hadn't chipped and cracked like so many old corks.
The nose had equal parts caramel and mint. The palate is fabulous; it's sweet with lots of big spicy notes on a caramel background. The finish is dry with oak, candle wax and a hint of banana along with a bit of damp basement on the nose.
This is great stuff, but interestingly, it does not taste much like a typical Stitzel-Weller. Old Stitzel-Weller has a very distinctive flavor profile, all sweet caramel with some pine and oak. This one had some of those caramel notes, but it had spicy notes that differentiated it from other Stitzel-Wellers I've had. In fact, given all of the spicy notes, I probably would have guessed it was a rye recipe bourbon had I been tasting blind, though the spice profile is a bit different from rye; it most likely comes from the oak.
Why would this Weller be so different from other Stitzel-Wellers? Well, there are a few things to consider. First, this is the oldest Stitzel-Weller distillate I've tasted, and it would have dated from the era when Will McGill, the original distiller, was in charge. He served from the founding of the distillery until his death in May, 1952 so this may have been bottled under his watch as well. Second, the high fill level and pristine cork may have kept this in better condition than some of the other bottles I've had. Part of what we find distinctive about dusty bourbon may be the impact of some amount of oxidation. For whatever reason, that may have been less present in this bottle which had a freshness to it that I don't associate with dusties.
The long and short of it is that while this stuff may not taste like typical Stitzel-Wellers I've had, it was excellent bourbon.