American whiskeys come in two main varieties: corn (including bourbon and Tennessee whiskey) and rye. The corn whiskeys are generally 70-80% corn with the balance made up of rye and malted barley. The rye whiskeys are 70-80% rye with the balance made up of corn and malted barley.
Corn lends the whiskey a sweetness. Rye brings in spices like pepper and cinnamon. Malted barley provides enzymes that convert the grain starches into sugars so the yeast can make alcohol. But if a sweeter, milder whiskey is what you crave, you should turn your eye to a fourth grain: wheat.
In 1849, William Larue Weller became the first distiller to produce bourbon using wheat rather than rye. There are a few “wheated” bourbons that figure prominently in the marketplace. One we’ve discussed in the past is Maker’s Mark. The Van Winkle family of bourbons Also feature a wheat mashbill. Over at the Buffalo Trace distillery, the wheat recipe still bears the Weller name.
Buffalo Trace has several varieties of W.L. Weller available year round, but the cream of the crop is the William Larue Weller that has been a part of their Antique Collection since 2005. The 2011 William Larue Weller came in at number four on Whisky Advocate’s top ten whiskeys of 2011 list (all five Buffalo Trace Antique Collection whiskeys made the list). The Weller is unfiltered and bottled at barrel strength, which was a whopping 133.5 proof for the 2011 release.
I was lucky enough to get my hands on a bottle just before the holidays and this bottle lives up to every bit of the hype. I cut my pour down a bit with some water, but not before trying a sip at full strength. Even straight out of the bottle at 133+ proof, this is an exceptionally smooth bourbon. With flavors of honey and maple, this is a very sweet and enjoyable bourbon with a satisfying caramel finish.
There may still be a bottle or two floating around Dallas. If you can find one, you won’t regret it. If not… There’s always the 2012 release.