W.L. Weller Special Reserve Review

W L Weller Special Reserve Review

W.L. Weller Special Reserve, along with all of the Weller brands, is owned by Buffalo Trace who is in turn owned by the Sazerac company. Though it wasn’t always that way. In fact, Weller was once owned by THE Pappy Van Winkle back when it was being made in the Stitzel-Weller distillery.

Named after William Larue Weller, who was a distiller back in the mid 1800’s, all Weller’s are wheaters. This simply means that instead of using rye as the secondary grain like most bourbons do this one uses wheat. The wheat gives it a softer feel and sweeter flavor and aroma that helps set it apart from other bourbons.

Overall the Weller Special Reserve is a good bourbon, but not a great bourbon. It’s not one I want in my glass everyday and when compared to it’s bigger brother the 107 and it’s pappy the 12 it comes across as unimpressive and a tad unbalanced. Though at only $17 a bottle it’s a good thing to keep around for great cocktails.

W.L. Weller Special Reserve Review

ABV: 45%
Price: $17
Distiller: W.L. Weller and sons / Buffalo Trace

Amber with hints of orange

Spice comes charging out of the Glencairn Copita followed by caramel, cinnamon, cherry heavy dark fruit and wood. There is some butterscotch playing around in the background with a bit of acetone.

Here the spice lays low and lets caramel steal the show along with some citrus, toffee, cinnamon, wood and baking spices. Vanilla and dark fruit play more of supporting roles and there is a strong streak of ethanol kicking up far more than a 90 proof whiskey should.

Roughest of the three entry level Wellers, but still manageable.

Wood, caramel and spice start things off nicely, but after a bit the ethanol rears it’s head again and dampens what could have been a pleasantly long finish.

SCORE: 82/100

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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27 Responses to W.L. Weller Special Reserve Review

  1. Are you serious? Weller special reserve is probably THE best reasonably priced bourbon in existence. If it isn’t then please tell me what is!

    • I’d say that Weller 107 & Weller 12 beat it hands down and they’re well worth the
      extra $7 – $10. If you’re looking at the sub $20 market then I’d say Larceny (another wheater) beats it as well. Going outside of the wheater category I’d personally rather drink Old-Grandad Bottled In Bond which is only $2-$3 more. But that’s just my personal taste.

  2. Josh, I find your W. L Weller Special Reserve spot on. It’s a pleasant bourbon for the price, but it’s not very complex or even memorable. My wife enjoys it, I think, for that fact. For her, it’s drinkable and light. I prefer a more complex drink. But, it’s okay a bourbons go.

      • Excellent reviews on the Wellers. The 12-year is no longer available anywhere in my neck of the woods, so the Antique is my new mainstay. I must disagree with portions of your review on the Special Reserve. You refer to the ethynol kick being high for an 80 proofer, but Reserve is bottled at 90 proof. I think this makes it even more of a value, and possibly is a justification for the alcohol tastes you refer to. I find this bourbon to be TOO easy on the palate for cocktails because it seems to get lost in the mix. Great discussion though. Keep them coming..

        • Thanks Todd, and the 80 was a typo. I had marked it at a 90 proof (45%) and just fixed it to say 90. For me this one still comes across hotter than the 107, much more of a kick.


  3. I’m finding myself enjoying the ‘wheated’ bourbons more so than the ‘rye’ bourbons.

    Really enjoying the standard Maker’s Mark/Maker’s 46/Maker’s Cask Strength trio…How do the Weller trio stack up to their rival from Maker’s Mark, and for that matter how does the Larceny hold up?

    No Weller/Larceny in my neck of the woods so I’ll have to order online.

  4. While I agree the the W.L. Weller 12 year is amazing, it is near impossible to get here in southern ohio/northern kentucky. People hoard it and re-sell on the secondary market for $80-$120!!! Having said that, Weller Special Reserve can be had if you hunt for it. I like it better than the Weller Antique (and Larceny and Makwrs). Im not an expert like you, but I feel no wheater is better at the price point. Cheers!

    • Hey John, if you like it you like it and that’s all that’s important. If you like it more than the others then that’s exactly what you should get. The situation over here in CA is very similar, the second the 12 shows up people buy it and flip it or the stores price it at $125 – $200 themselves. This one is slightly easier to find, but only slightly :/

  5. The Weller 12 has become basically impossible to find. Too bad. It used to be available all the time at ABC Liquor stores in south Florida. The Special Reserve Weller is drinkable but doesn’t come close to the 12. Finding decently aged bourbon has become very difficult. The Evan Williams Single Barrel is 8-10 years old and quite good. It is a super bargain at around $25 a bottle. Knob Creek at 8 years old is good stuff, as well. Basil Hayden is no longer aged. Not the same as it was.

  6. Hello,

    I’m not a whiskey drinker, but recently discovered a partial bottle of Weller Special Reserve in my liquor cabinet. The bottle label says it was made in the Spring of 1941. I believe it belonged to my father, who died in 1977. Would it still be okay at this date (2017)?

    • A partial bottle might be quite oxidized and not taste very good, but I don’t think it’s harmful. I’ve had some highly oxidized whiskey before and it tasted foul, but I lived to write this response.

  7. I was in New York City today and dropped into a liquor store looking for Weller 12. They didn’t have any but they had two shelf facings of Special Reserve tagged at $100 per 750ml.

    Just another reason to H8 NY.

  8. Weller 12 is the best I’ve ever had. Just picked up a 1.75L Weller SR for $30. Was surprised to see it on the shelf as I never see Weller any more when I look. Haven’t it tried SR yet, but I think I got a pretty good deal. Wish I could find the 12 (at retail price), so this will have to do.

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