In recent years, William Larue Weller has become the most coveted bottle in the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, easily seeing markups of five times its MSRP and even more than that on the secondary market. That breathless hysteria has now trickled all the way down to the most readily available bottle in the Weller lineup, Weller Special Reserve. We first reviewed this one back in 2013, about four years after it lost its 7-year age statement. It’s still reportedly close to that age, but there’s definitely younger bourbon in the bottle (maybe some older, too). At the time of our first review, a bottle could be had for around $12. The Weller lineup received new packaging in 2016 and the price doubled, which may sound drastic but is totally in line with how other distillery’s have treated their bottom shelf gems (ahem, Heaven Hill). But all that happened before the Weller hysteria started to rival the Pappy hysteria. Now, it’s hard to find a bottle of Special Reserve for less than three times that price. Is it worth the hype? Let’s revisit this entry-level wheater and see for ourselves.
The nose is light and airy and sweet, really sweet. Sweet tea comes to mind, but that might only be because there’s a bit of lemony citrus in the mix that turns to more orange slice as it opens in the glass. Secondary notes of vanilla, toffee, cinnamon, and oak are there, as well. It’s a nice enough nose, but without the richness of the Antique 107 and far from the complexity of the 12 Year. I would have expected a very light palate, but it’s decently sized and surprisingly oily. The flavors are classic: caramel sauce and butterscotch pudding with plenty of cinnamon sugar and a subtle, peppery spice that complements the gentle heat. It’s not initially that sweet, but the finish sees that sugar build with a crescendo of orange rock candy and chewy caramels. If you like a sweeter bourbon, this is definitely your jam. Well worth the new mark up, but not the secondary ridiculousness.