WELLER ANTIQUE 107
Barrel 601 (aka “Broken Hammer”) picked by Maison Corbeaux’s Single Barrel Project (2019)
MASH BILL – Undisclosed mash of corn, wheat, and barley
PROOF – 107
AGE – NAS (~6 to 7 years)
DISTILLERY – Buffalo Trace Distillery
PRICE – $60
BUY AGAIN? – They’re gone. But another Antique 107 pick? Yes, so long as it’s no higher than $60!
This post—the second of three on Weller store picks—focuses on the mid-level Weller product, Weller Antique 107. Even more than Weller Special Reserve, the Antique 107 is an unfortunate bottom-shelf bourbon gone top-shelf. Maison Corbeaux is a San Francisco shop with prices that generally run toward the higher end, yet are (mostly) still lower than secondary market prices, which many local brick-and-mortar shops are now unabashedly matching.
I’d had an incredible experience with Maison Corbeaux’s 2018 Weller Antique 107 pick, barrel #087. That barrel had a seductive nose of faint dark caramels. The taste was all rich dark vanilla and caramel with black pepper. The finish was soft, warm, and caramelly. Oh my. It was an insta-fave. It was also $43 to this 2019 barrel #601’s even $60. Also, one wasn’t allowed to buy the #601 without also buying something else. The $17 jump, combined with the bundle-purchase requirement (a practice used by an increasing number of Bay Area shops), was enough to plant the suspicion firmly in my head that my Weller Antique 107 days might be drawing to a close. I have a handful of Antique 107 store picks currently bunkered, ranging in price from a low of $43 to a high of $65. I will slowly enjoy them. But unless the Weller universe reverses its current spin, my current stock may constitute a handful of last hurrahs.
Here are some notes in brief on this barrel #601, taken about two weeks after opening the bottle and still just a few shots in:
COLOR – a rich copper orange
NOSE – thick dark caramel dripping slowly over oak, good but not very forthcoming
TASTE – rich caramel, a soothing sparkly pepperiness, baked apples still enclosed inside their pie’s crust
FINISH – a bit of an apple cider quality, a soothing peppery sparkle, the caramels in the background
OVERALL – Very good
Though it lacks that extra something special that its Single Barrel Project predecessor, the 2018 barrel #087, was bursting with from first to last ounce, this barrel #601 is no slouch. Whereas #087 was both bright and deep, #601 sides with deep. Lacking that brightness makes it all a bit less forthcoming out of the glass. There is an ease about this barrel, like it’s perfectly capable of pleasing but not eager to do so. It comes across as having nothing to prove—good, but a bit annoying that it won’t just flat out entertain like it knows it can.
Last year when some friends and I tasted a flight of all three standard Weller releases—the Special Reserve, Antique 107, and 12 Year—the clear favorite for each of us was the Antique 107. Those 17 extra proof points pull something magical out of this bourbon. At that tasting, I actually could barely tell the ferociously-hunted 12 Year apart from the common Special Reserve. Both are 90 proof, but differ in age by roughly 6 years. That experience abruptly ended my hunt for 12 Year. Sure, if I happen upon a bottle for a reasonable price (under $60) I’ll pick it up. But I’ll not be devoting the miles of hunting walks to it that I once did. And I simply cannot stomach the secondary-market prices. Weller 12 Year is just not that great a bourbon.
The Antique 107 store picks remain a worthy prize. Despite the nationwide talk about how difficult a bottle is to come by, the Bay Area where I live is blessed with several stores regularly offering picks. So I’m lucky in that it’s not that hard to nab at least one each year from among the various options.
I will enjoy this Single Barrel Project pick. They nicknamed it “broken hammer.”
I don’t know what the story behind that is. But in my mind the image of a broken hammer in relation to Weller Antique 107 connects to the old saying, “Don’t beat a dead horse.” There is something tiring about the Weller craze. It’s good bourbon. No doubt there. It’s just so overpriced and battered by hype now for what it is. Some who appreciate it are as often tired of it. This is an odd phenomenon of the whiskey world—perhaps akin to when your favorite band goes big and you miss their small, trashy pub days. I can only imagine seeing U2 play in some ill-lit, early-1980’s Irish pub.
Luckily I don’t have to imagine what a good Weller Antique 107 store pick tastes like. I’ll enjoy this bottle while it lasts…!
In part 3, we’ll be tasting a Weller Full Proof picked by K&L. Stay tuned…!