Comparison: Bottle Kill Weller Full Proof Barrel #225 / Uncorking Weller Full Proof Barrel #269

WELLER FULL PROOF
Barrel #225 picked by K&L (2019)

MASH BILL – Undisclosed mash of corn, wheat, and barley

PROOF – 114

AGE – NAS (between 6-7 years according to K&L)

DISTILLERY – Buffalo Trace Distillery

PRICE – $66

WELLER FULL PROOF
Barrel #269 picked by K&L (2020)

MASH BILL – Undisclosed mash of corn, wheat, and barley

PROOF – 114

AGE – NAS (6 years 9 months according to K&L)

DISTILLERY – Buffalo Trace Distillery

PRICE – $77

The going wisdom is that lightning never strikes in the same place twice. That may be scientifically true. But as a metaphor it doesn’t always hold.

In November 2019 I managed to nab a bottle of the first ever Weller Full Proof pick from K&L during the seconds-long window in which it was up and available online. Then, in August 2020, I quite accidentally managed to get their second pick, likewise during the flash in which it appeared and vanished online. I’d just happened to check the website in that moment. I couldn’t believe it.

The 2019 bottle has been open for about eleven months and is down to its final pour. The 2020 bottle has been open for about eleven minutes and I’ve just poured its first ounce. Here are the brief notes comparing the first bottle at the end of its life, and the second at its start. Both were tasted in a traditional Glencairn.

COLOR

#225 – vibrant variations on roasted pumpkin orange

#269 – similar, but leaning oh so slightly more into the golden yellows

NOSE

#225 – bright caramel on dusty oak, some dry granite, fresh apple cider, some faint cherry

#269 – less forthcoming at first, but after some coaxing a solid rich caramel emerges alongside a strong mossy oak tree note, very herbal, then eventually a bright baked cherry note arrives in the background

TASTE

#225 – tart and tangy, with crisp apple, sour cherry, the oak and a bit of the granite

#269 – that rich caramel dives a notch deeper into the dark, the oak tannins step forward nicely, stopping just short of going bitter, and those herbal notes waft through like a breeze in a wild field

FINISH

#225 – drying despite the fruit aspects, like a good dry red wine of some kind, leaving a nice warm “Kentucky hug” in the chest, and lingering gently but at length…

#269 – as with the taste, notably more herbal than fruity, with the oak tree and mossy aspects lingering on a background of dark toasted caramel, leaving a cooling heat at the back of the throat and that warm Kentucky hug in the chest.

OVERALL

#225 – the brighter, fruity, peppy sibling

#269 – the darker, herbaceous, broody sibling

BUY AGAIN?

BOTH – Can’t. But future Weller Full Proof picks, yes, if the price does not continue to jump $10 every year. This is not worth much more than $60.

Clearly siblings, cut from the same DNA but with their own personalities.

Looking back at my previous notes on the 2019 bottle, it began its uncorked lifespan rich with caramels and a lemony zing to give it definition. After nearly a year it has grown fruitier, more forthcoming, showing more of the apple and cherry flavors I so associate with the Weller line and Buffalo Trace products in general.

The 2020 bottle is immediately distinct. The Weller caramel and dusty oak are there. But this bottle leans into drier herbal elements I don’t readily associate with the Weller line. Especially toward the end of the taste and into the finish, it actually reminds me of certain Barton Distillery products I’ve had, like their 1792 or sourced offerings like Lucky Seven. Tasted blind I can imagine my guessing this was indeed a Barton whiskey and not Buffalo Trace.

This comparison demonstrates why single barrel store picks are so sought after—not only when it comes to Weller, but in general. If one likes a given whiskey line, then the opportunity to try it in endless singular variations is quite a draw. This 2020 Weller Full Proof pick indeed offers a curve ball I wouldn’t expect from Weller, whereas the 2019 pick was much more squarely centered in the expected Weller taste profile. The unique appeal to that first pick was the then new 114 proof, which pushes the flavors even more forwardly than the Weller Antique’s energetic 107 proof.

Of the four main Weller variations—Special Reserve, Antique 107, Weller 12, and Full Proof—I’d say the Antique 107 and Full Proof tend to appeal to me most. The Weller 12 has the oaky benefits of its age. But watered down to 90 proof, it tends to come off rather plainly compared to the Antique 107 or Full Proof. And the brightness of the younger Special Reserve, also 90 proof, seems to make more of an effort than its older 90-proof cousin. I would take a store pick of the Special Reserve over the standard 12 year, easily.

All that said, each Weller variation has something to offer. I’ve yet to have the chance to try the CYPB release, or any of the distillery’s own single barrel releases. I’ll most likely try those one day in a bar, where to sample a single pour I’ll probably have to pay what would be the msrp for a full bottle!

Then of course there is the infamous William Larue Weller, an annual release in the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, usually aged around 12 years but left at cask strength. It is the full, fiery flower of what Weller 12 could be were it not diluted down to 90 proof. I do have an open bottle of William Larue Weller on the shelf, and will likely post notes comparing it to this 2020 Weller Full Proof at some point. It would also be interesting to place it next to the Weller 12 Year.

The Wellers are annoyingly difficult to chase down. I’ve had pretty good luck. Patience has been the key. And of course one doesn’t really need many on hand. Given the sheer range of bourbon on offer now, how fast can one get through how many bottles? Besides, the more bottles any one person bunkers, the fewer people have a chance to try them and the faster the price climbs.

I have a feeling my own Weller stocks will gradually dwindle un-replenished. With prices bumping up by roughly $10 each season, and the more limited releases hitting the shelf for $$$$$ right out of the gate, I don’t see myself breaking a sweat to chase after them like I once did. Instead I’ll continue to rely on patience, accidents and chance. The odd lightning strikes have done well by me thus far, after all…

Also, though Weller is legit good bourbon, so many other whiskeys are equally good in their own ways. Circumstance and a few prominent articles pointing out the connection between Weller and the legendary Van Winkle line have managed to create a perfect storm of blinding FOMO. It’s too bad. But it is what it is.

I very much look forward to following this 2020 Weller Full Proof pick as it continues to air out over the coming months. It’s a perfectly satisfying, and legitimately interesting pour for any chilly Autumn or Winter evening. The rustic herbal aspects make me want to rent a cabin in the woods and sip a glass outside on some cold night next to a roaring bonfire…!

Cheers!

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