Like it or not, much of the ongoing interest in bourbon is thanks to Buffalo Trace. They’re a distillery that’s bigger than most casual drinkers might realize. All one needs to do is visit the “Our Brands” part of Buffalo Trace’s website to see just how many names and bottles are produced or otherwise sold by the Frankfort distillery. And the vast majority of them continue to be so in demand that prices, regardless of supply, continue to climb. It feels like an old and tiring tale at this point, despite its relative recency. After all, the always-sought-after Buffalo Trace Antique Collection was only introduced just over 20 years ago.
Among the more coveted brands in Buffalo Trace’s portfolio is Weller, with the blue labeled Full Proof considered by many to be the best in the lineup (excluding William Larue Weller from the aforementioned Antique Collection). The term “full proof” is sometimes used interchangeably (and mistakenly) with cask/barrel strength, but full proof means that the bottling proof matches the barrel entry proof, which is 114 in the case of Weller Full Proof. This means the whiskey from barrels may be blended together, proofed down, or both to achieve that 114 proof point. Weller Full Proof is also non-chill filtered to “preserve all the naturally occurring residual oils and flavors that occur during the distillation and aging process,” per Buffalo Trace.
As mentioned in my review for the entry-level Special Reserve, Weller is all but completely limited to ABC Fine Wine & Spirits in Florida, which means acquiring bottles from the entire line is all the more frustrating. Today will be the second time I look at a sample of a bottle of Weller Full Proof, this time for a Total Wine store pick.
Nose: Classic Buffalo Trace aroma, but amplified. Buttery. Tons of vanilla with sweet caramel and light brown sugars. Candied cherry and frosting, bordering on whipped cream and maraschino cherry on top of a milkshake, but without the milkshake. Sweet pastry oozing with butter. Rickhouse aroma ramps up after sipping.
Palate: Moderate viscosity. Big ol’ caramel bomb. Sweet oak with manageable heat. Cherry pie with a brown sugary glaze. Gets a bit flat over time, but accents of oak and orange spice help prevent the experience from becoming too dull.
Finish: Medium. Even more caramel, borders on toffee candy. Vanilla kicks back in with trace amounts of oak and sweet tobacco.
Figuring out whether an allocated whiskey will please or disappoint you is often a crapshoot. In the case of Weller Full Proof, it’s been both for me. My first time trying it I found the bourbon rather astringent, despite some nice flavors and aromas. That ultimately soured the experience enough to make me not care about the line as a whole. This pick, however, is a winner. The nose and palate seamlessly translate with tried-and-true Buffalo Trace characteristics, complete without the off-putting astringency from my first sample. If anything, the dram becomes slightly flat over time, but it tastefully avoids slipping into snooze territory.
I hate to say it, but I now want my own bottle of Weller Full Proof. I can certainly nitpick it, particularly with such a safe and uncomplex flavor profile, but if a whiskey tastes good enough then complexity becomes an afterthought. And this whiskey is more than good enough to satisfy me. That is, until we consider the logistics of obtaining a bottle. If Weller Full Proof sat on shelves alongside Maker’s Mark Cask Strength for MSRP, I could see it becoming a staple in my household. And speaking of Maker’s Cask Strength, I poured a bit of batch 20-03 to compare to the Weller once I got my tasting notes. The Maker’s came across as craft-like on the nose with more of a cereal essence, while the palate brought a decent supply of baking spices. As far as being a crowd-pleaser, the Weller handily wins for its sweet, approachable profile. However, the Maker’s was definitely the more interesting of the two thanks to those spice cabinet notes. Combine that with the fact I could probably buy a dozen bottles of Maker’s Cask Strength for what Weller Full Proof fetches on secondary, and I’d say my current overall preference speaks for itself.