The first expression in Buffalo Trace’s new, experimental line exploring the impact of different wheat grains is finally here, and it’s called Daniel Weller. For a little background, Daniel Weller is the grandfather of William LaRue Weller and the man who originally brought the Weller family to Kentucky back in 1794 – the year that’s prominently featured on the front of the bottle. As for the experimental part, this initial offering utilizes the classic Weller recipe but replaces red winter wheat with Emmer wheat, which is an esoteric grain that enjoyed a prominent place in the Pharaonic era of Ancient Egypt.
Furthermore, this new biennial expression is produced on Buffalo Trace’s E.H. Taylor, Jr. Microstill. The whiskey that became Daniel Weller bourbon was originally slated to be part of the Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection before “graduating” to top billing under the Weller banner, hence the small still production. It’s fun to see that this limited edition is equal parts homage to the Weller family heritage and departure from the core lineup, and thus it comes with a fresh name and a showy new bottle as well.
On the shelf Daniel Weller instantly stands out from the rest of the lineup in that it comes in a clear bottle with a large Weller emblem front-and-center plus a unique compass stopper. Once the stopper is removed you find that the compass features coordinates pinpointing the location of Daniel’s original farm near Botland, Kentucky. It’s an ornate, albeit hokey touch that further serves to position this bourbon as a premium expression in the Weller portfolio. Now let’s get into it, shall we?
The nose opens with aromas of strawberry jam, a bit of herbal tea, bright pink bubblegum, and burnt caramel. It’s discernibly more grain-forward than the standard Weller recipe and at nearly 12 years old there’s a more pronounced char influence in the mix as well. At 94 proof – the second lowest in the Weller lineup – it maintains an impressively expressive and ebullient aroma that left me excited to enjoy the first sip.
Ahh, and on that first sip the nosing notes hold true as it begins a bit grain-forward before immediately becoming delightfully sweet with fruit and butterscotch bursting across the palate. The strawberry jam from the nose morphs here into a plum on the tongue and the texture is surprisingly lively, verging on being almost effervescent. As the fruity explosion’s initial impact wanes, an impressive transition to the oak influence begins as a bit of moisture seeps out of the palate. In the wake of this drying transition to the long-lasting finish there are faint citrus notes that emerge along with almonds, a touch of nutmeg, and barrel char to round out the experience.
All told, Daniel Weller features a delightful medley of flavors that are nearly all distinct and well developed. This whiskey’s exceedingly dry finish serves as the primary strike against it – along with one’s hope that it would be a higher proof for such considerable cost – but from the packaging to being packed with flavor, this experiment offers a clear-cut point of difference from the rest of the lineup. Rest assured, Daniel Weller isn’t just Weller 12 in a fancy bottle but rather something new entirely. With new extensions of this line set to arrive every two years it looks like completing that Weller vertical just got a little more expensive.
B+ / $500 / buffalotracedistillery.com