One of the most common sentiments modern whiskey fans share is the desire to explore. This may apply a specific category (such as bourbon), multiple categories, or just spirits in general. Regardless, each individual likely has a comfort zone they return to time and again. Anyone who knows me knows where my tastes lie, and I’m not exactly in rarefied company, either.
Bourbon is so big that it’s literally impossible to try every expression on the market, even if income was a non-issue. Most of us don’t have that luxury, meaning we have to be more selective while shopping. And yet, one distillery absolutely pervades the modern bourbon zeitgeist as THE one to buy bottles from. Said distillery also produces one of the most bizarre and frustrating brands to obtain in my home state.
My coverage of Weller has been sporadic with equally mixed results to boot. And yet, the 12-Year and Full Proof, two of the more coveted bottles in the product line, crossed my path (in sample form) well before Antique 107 did. So what separates Antique from its siblings? Going off what we actually know, not much. The main difference seems to be that it isn’t bottled to the same point as Full Proof (107 vs 114). It previously carried a 7-year age statement, but has been NAS for a while (currently rumored to be 6 or so years old). MSRP seems reasonable enough at $50, but unless you’re on a list, you’re probably finding it for closer to 3x that. As with the aforementioned bottles, I got to try this from a sample.
Nose: Candy-sweet with big caramel apple complemented by the expected dose of sweet vanilla, butterscotch, and slightly musty brown sugar. The sweetness begins to present like cherry bubblegum the more it sits. Really easy to be taken in by this; it’s classic bourbon aromas to a tee.
Palate: Matches the nose with vanilla, caramelized red apple, and brown sugar. A rather sudden hit of proof and cinnamon spice hit on first sip, providing a minimal amount of contrast. Over time this effect subsides, arguably to the pour’s detriment. The mouthfeel is light-medium, but the flavors come across in such a sticky way.
Finish: Spice settles, allowing the vanilla and caramel notes to shine again, but in a way that’s more buttery and creamy. The brown sugar notes come across lighter here too, losing much of the molasses essence over time.
To say that Weller Antique splits the difference between its older and higher proof siblings almost feels like a copout, but that’s simply the easiest way to encapsulate it. When it comes to age versus proof, Weller seems to fare best when the latter is emphasized. Antique doesn’t have the extra push of Full Proof to help cut through the sweet profile that much more, but it’s at least more balanced than the 12-Year. As such, it ranks squarely in the middle, assuming we disregard the unremarkable Special Reserve.
What kind of price tag does that level of assessment justify? Honestly, at this point, everyone should know the answer. Weller Antique is a good, solid bourbon that, in a sane world, would only sell slightly more than Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. Ceteris paribus, I’d occasionally keep it handy for casual bourbon fans looking to explore slightly higher proof, as well as for sweeter cocktails. It’s beginner-friendly and ideal for casual drinking, not periodic triple-digit bragging rights for folks with too much money to burn.