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If you’re a bourbon fan, you’re likely familiar with Buffalo Trace’s W.L. Weller lineup. This wheated bourbon exploded in popularity a few years back when people realized that it was sort of a less expensive, easier to find version of the legendary Pappy Van Winkle. This week, a new member of the Weller family was announced—Daniel Weller, an experimental whiskey that could reach Pappy levels of cult fandom.
Daniel Weller is named after the grandfather of Willliam Larue Weller, the man credited by Buffalo Trace with introducing the wheated bourbon style to Kentucky. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it refers to bourbon made with wheat instead of rye as the secondary flavoring grain after corn (other examples of wheaters include Maker’s Mark, Wyoming Whiskey, and Larceny). Other accounts have wheated bourbon arriving decades after Weller’s death, however, when a group of men including Julian P. Van Winkle developed the recipe. Whatever the case may be, the Weller brand is now synonymous with wheated bourbon, and the new Daniel Weller expression is an interesting addition to the lineup.
This is the first release in what is intended to be a biennial series, so the next new expression won’t arrive until 2025. Daniel Weller is made from a mash bill that uses Emmer wheat, which according to Buffalo Trace is an ancient Egyptian varietal used more for beer and bread than whiskey. “We began this experiment to see how one of the original, long-forgotten wheat strains would taste in our wheated bourbon,” said master distiller Harlen Wheatley in a statement. “We’ve found it offers just a slightly—yet delightfully—different taste that brings us into a new bourbon territory. It will taste like Weller, but with distinct, unique notes that make it stand apart from the other Weller whiskies we’ve released to date.”
In addition to including this unique strain of wheat in the recipe, the whiskey was produced in a much smaller batch in the E.H. Taylor, Jr. Microstill, which Wheatley himself designed. This is a hybrid pot-column still installed in 2007, and the whiskey made in it is aged in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouse X, sort of the Area 51 of Kentucky bourbon. “We will continue to experiment with multiple variables that affect the final taste profile–grains, techniques, aging, barrels, and more–in pursuit of that ultimate goal,” said Buffalo Trace global brand director Andrew Duncan. “When an experiment ‘graduates’ to be released under a beloved brand like Weller, it’s a reflection of our confidence in the whiskey.”
Daniel Weller was aged for almost 12 years and bottled at 94 proof. Official tasting notes include orange zest, hazelnut, cinnamon, and caramel on the nose; oak, sweet honey and orchard fruits on the palate; and an oaky finish with baking spice and leather. This is a very limited release, but it’s available now around the country for $500… although you’re better off checking your local liquor store than looking online, and be prepared to pay much more than that. If you want to compare it to the regular Weller lineup, you can find those bottles to purchase now at ReserveBar.