Weller, formerly W.L. Weller, is a wheated bourbon originally made at Stitzel Weller and was run by Pappy Van Winkle. The distillery was opened in 1935 after prohibition ended and operated until 1992 when the distillery was shuttered. The distillery was reopened in 2014 by Diageo. When the distillery was shuttered, the brands were ultimately sold off, and Sazerac of New Orleans acquired Weller and Old Charter in 1999 and began production at what is now Buffalo Trace Distillery. When I was in college, Weller came in three versions – Special Reserve, Antique, and Twelve Year Old. They were relatively affordable and definitely available. However, the Van Winkle family retained the Old Rip Van Winkle brand and ultimately released Pappy Van Winkle from old stocks of whiskey. Van Winkle bourbon was originally something that bourbon nerds drank until Anthony Bourdain began extolling this bourbon. So, the Van Winkle whiskies became highly sought after, and given that the Van Winkles moved new production to Buffalo Trace, Weller became just as sought after. Same mashbill, similar taste. Buffalo Trace could increase production of Weller three fold and this bourbon would still remain hard to get.
One might expect the quality of Weller to go down in face of insatiable demand. That is the thing with wheated bourbon; without the rye in the mashbill wheated bourbon needs more time in the barrel to get really good flavors and character. I recently acquired bottles of Weller 12, Antique 107, and Full Proof, I decide to write this blog simply because the quality of these bourbons has actually gone up from prior years I have tried. Some of it may be tied to aging, some of it may be tied to the seasons during which this bourbon aged. But all three bottles are really really good this year.