This brand dates back to the late 1940s when Julian Van Winkle wanted to reach out to the market that still remembered purchasing whiskey from a barrel at a liquor store or saloon. It was called then Weller Original Barrel Proof, had a seven year age statement and was bottled at the proof it came out of the barrel at 110 proof. A few years later the decision was made to bottle it at barrel entry proof of 107. In the late 1960s it was decided that it would be called Antique with a parchment style label and the portrait of Julian Van Winkle on one side of the label and W.L. Weller’s portrait on the other side. It was called “Antique” at seven years old because until 1958 the bonding period was only 8 years. At the end of eight years the distiller had to remove the whiskey from the bonded warehouses and pay the excise taxes on the whiskey. Needless to say most distillers then bottled the whiskey for sale rather than returning it to barrels for further aging and further evaporation. Seven years old was indeed antique by the standards before 1958 when most whiskey was bottled at four to six years of age. After the family sold the distillery the portrait of Julian Van Winkle was dropped from the label and Weller graced both sides of the label.
The bottle style and label has changed since the 1970s. Buffalo Trace purchased the brand in the late 1990s and they have changed the packaging several times since the purchase. Buffalo Trace has also removed the age statement from the brand. Since an age statement is the year of the youngest whiskey in the bottle, in the 1990s United Distillers was putting a lot of eight to twelve years old Bourbon in the bottle with seven years old Bourbon. Today the oldest whiskey in the bottle may be 7 years old instead of the youngest. This is a reflection of the popularity of the brand as Buffalo trace does not have the maturing whiskey to supply a seven year age statement.
Old Weller Antique
Age: No Age Statement
Nose: Caramel and vanilla with a bit of ripe apple and pecans. Fine leather and tobacco linger in the back of the nose.
Taste: Very nice mouth feel with a little warmth and no burn. The caramel and vanilla are up front but there is that apple and pepper spice following very quickly behind. Tasted with a dried cranberry brings out the apples and vanilla but pushes the pepper to the finish. Tasted with a pecan the Bourbon is very sweet with caramel and a note of chocolate that grows into the finish. The pepper is almost gone with just a hint in the background
Finish: Long and dry with some oak and pepper. A dried cranberry makes the finish very peppery and long. The pecan makes the finish start sweet with dark chocolate notes that lead into a dry oak finish.
Notes: This is a complex Bourbon that should be enjoyed neat and over time. The longer it breathes the better it gets with more caramel and chocolate notes. It works well with a cigar and today I am enjoying it with a Rocky Patel Decade 10th Anniversary. The smoke enhances the caramel and apple in the Bourbon while the smoke becomes a bit sweeter and more full bodied.
Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach