Weller Special Reserve​ review

Weller Special Reserve

weller special reserve review

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Type & Region: Bourbon, Kentucky, USA

Alcohol: 45%

Composition: Buffalo Trace wheated mash, speculated to be 70% corn, 16% wheat and 14% malted barley

Aged: NAS

Color: 1.1/2.0 on the color scale (burnished)

Price: $22-30 MSRP

From the Buffalo Trace website:

“The Original Wheated Bourbon Whiskey features an exceptionally smooth taste, substituting wheat for rye grain. Bottled at 90 proof, this bourbon stands out with its burnt orange color. Its softer flavor notes make this bourbon great for sipping or making cocktails.”

Company Website

Weller Special Reserve​ overview

Weller Special Reserve is Buffalo Trace’s “entry level” wheated bourbon, followed by Weller Antique 107, Weller 12 Year, Weller Single Barrel, Weller Full Proof, and whatever new stuff they keep launching at this point. Given the already astronomical hype around Weller anything, I don’t need to say much more than that, so let’s find out how this bourbon actually smells and tastes in this Weller Special Reserve review to find out if it’s worth the hype.

 

*Thanks to Ryan S. for the sample for this review. 

Weller Special Reserve​ smell

Weller Special Reserve kicks it off with honey sweetness and floral citrus, apple, strawberry, vanilla, a thin layer of toasted oak, hay, and cinnamon. Having recently done my Old Fitzgerald 15 Year vs Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year comparison, Weller SR’s floral sweetness and fruitiness remind me a little of the Van Winkle Lot B. Don’t go rushing to the stores thinking that this is cheaper Van Winkle though, it’s just directionally similar. And while I wouldn’t quite characterize the Special Reserve as having a light nose, it definitely leans towards being delicate and gentle. As pleasant and inoffensive as it usually is, I’m actually most surprised at the heat, which comes in a little hot at times. Then again, the lighter scents may not be doing enough to suppress the heat.

 

Swirling brings out more floral honey, vanilla, canned peaches with cinnamon, and oak. While it’s not that oaky, it does provide this background toasted note that hints at a deeper darkness and mustiness, but definitely gives off a lot of cinnamon. The heat pokes my nostrils early on, but fades away as I continue to sniff. I’ll repeat this again as it comes to mind – Weller Special Reserve has a gentle and floral nose that still reminds me of a less fragrant Van Winkle 12 Year, which is a compliment. Overall though, the nose is nice and pleasant enough, but not special in any way. Then again, this is supposed to be a $20-25 bourbon, and it does the job well enough for that.

Weller Special Reserve​ taste & aftertaste

Weller Special Reserve is darker on the palate with honey, oak, cinnamon, dried grass, citrus, vanilla, and apple. It’s more oaky than the nose suggests, but at least there isn’t much bite with its 90 proof. “Chewing” gives me a similar floral honey and vanilla sweetness with apple and peach, but also constantly reminds me of its thin mouthfeel. There’s relatively quite a lot of oak and peppercorn, and given the relatively thin sweetness, comes off a tad unbalanced as the oak and peppercorn spar with the fruity sweetness for my attention.

 

The finish is also more tannic than expected with honey, cinnamon, apple, and black pepper. This sounds crazy, but there’s a slightly minty note, even though there’s absolutely no rye in this bourbon. Maybe it’s more like peppercorn, from the wood, which can leave a similar sensation. The finish continues to be tannic after “chewing”, with honey, cinnamon, and peppercorn that leave a constant tingle on my tongue.

 

Weller Special Reserve is not bad and not great, it just fine. To be fair, Weller Special Reserve does drink like the $20-30 wheated bourbon it is. Weller Antique 107 is a big step up from this, but given the 2019 price change from $25 to $50, is also double the MSRP and equally as difficult to find in this environment. Weller SR isn’t bad at all.

Place on the Whiskey Shelf

Mid Shelf

Here’s the honest truth – Weller Special Reserve drinks like a $20-30 bourbon at best. Sure, it has fleeting moments where it smells like watered-down Van Winkle Special Reserve 12 Year (“mid shelf+” to begin with), but ultimately it doesn’t leave me particularly impressed or satisfied. It’s not bad by any means, but it does little to justify the insane hype around it. When you remove the Buffalo Trace hype, what I’m left with is a decently enjoyable “mid shelf” bourbon with some nice floral fruitiness on the nose and palate for its price, although it has this peppercorn and oak note that makes the flavors a little unbalanced.

 

In the likely chance that you can’t find Weller Special Reserve, I highly recommend easier to find wheated bourbons such as Maker’s Mark, Rebel Yell 100, or Larceny Bourbon that are comparable, if not better in my opinion. Maker’s Mark or Maker’s Mark 46 may be the closest bourbons to Weller Special Reserve while Rebel Yell 100 and Larceny Bourbon stray into different territory because of the Heaven Hill grassy nuttiness. Heck, if you want to splurge on something really good, go for Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, an outstanding wheated bourbon that’s available virtually everywhere for under $60, if not $50. I’m fortunately able to find it for $35 so that’s my go-to wheated bourbon, but that’s not normal. If you can find Weller Special Reserve for under $30, sure go for it. Otherwise, you have a lot of great alternatives to explore.   

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