Stephen Colbert was a guest this morning on the Howard Stern show. During the wildly entertaining interview, Colbert gave his favorite spirit a glowing review. Colbert’s liquor of choice is W.L. Weller 12 Year Wheated Bourbon.
About his love for the Weller 12 Year, Colbert jokes to Stern, “It’s why I had to give up liquor for Lent. I like it too much.”
With this seal of approval our fingers immediately started typing away to look up the bourbon that Colbert raved about. (Hey, we love bourbon, too.)
First, the “wheated” specification got our attention. All bourbon contains rye, wheat and corn. 51% of bourbon’s flavor comes from corn. The remaining 49% contains varying amounts of rye and corn with how much or how little determined by the distiller. For example, a bourbon is considered “high rye” when it contains 20-35% rye. Ryes tend to taste spicy and strong on the palate. Wheated bourbons tend to taste earthy, sweet and smooth. Popular wheated bourbons include Larceny, Pappy Van Winkle, W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, and Maker’s Mark. While Jim Beam, Booker’s, Old Grand-Dad, Heaven Hill, Very Old Barton, and Four Roses are all noted bourbons that have more of an emphasis on rye flavoring.
Nicknamed a “poor man’s Pappy,” the 12-year Weller bourbon is supposed to retail for $26, but a quick Google search shows it selling for an average of $160 a bottle from various retailers. The high-end price point is still significantly less expensive than a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle, but Weller is getting more difficult to come by. In fact, the 2014 run on Weller had an air of hysteria about it after Josh Ozersky wrote a piece labeling it “baby Pappy Van Winkle.” These comparisons are actually quite logical. The Weller and Van Winkle brands share the same basic DNA. They are both produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery, share the exact same “wheated” mashbill, are aged in the same manner in the same warehouses, and are diluted to the same final proof. And in this particular case, they are also aged the same amount of time – to a minimum of 12 years.
So what does the 12-year Weller taste like? Overall, the bourbon has a sophisticated and balanced flavor profile with notes of vanilla, caramel, citrus, leather and oak. The finish is medium and notably smooth.
Although Van Winkle fanatics may have only just discovered W.L. Weller bourbons in recent years, the brand has been widely popular since its inception. Born in 1825, William Larue Weller was one of the early distilling pioneers in Kentucky. After serving with the Louisville Brigade in the 1840s, Weller returned to Louisville to join the family tradition of whiskey distilling. He developed his original bourbon recipe with wheat, rather than rye, in the mash bill. Weller’s original “wheated” recipe for bourbon became so popular he was forced to put a green thumbprint on barrels to ensure that customers were receiving the real deal.
If you are luck enough to find a bottle of the highly coveted and difficult to come by Weller 12 Year Wheated Bourbon, grab it and don’t think twice. We already knew Stephen Colbert is a very smart man. It turns out he has great taste in bourbon as well.