Why W.L. Weller Bourbon Is Almost Pappy Van Winkle

Apparently, W. L. Weller distilled Kentucky Straight Bourbon with wheat before anyone else -- including Julian "Pappy" Van Winkle, Sr. Van Winkle actually worked as a liquor salesman for W.L. Weller and Sons before he and a friend, Alex Farnsley, bought the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery, which made bourbon for Weller.

WL Weller 12 - Pappy Van Winkle Alternative

On Derby Day in 1935, Stitzel-Weller opened its doors and began making its wheated bourbon recipe famous. Eventually, the union produced Pappy Van Winkle, one of the most celebrated and hard-to-find bourbons in the world.

Why Weller and Pappy Are Almost the Same
Stitzel-Weller closed in 1992 and today, W. L. Weller 12 and Pappy Van Winkle are both produced at Buffalo Trace’s distillery. Basically, Weller 12 Year Old is made of Pappy that didn't quite make the cut for Pappy Van Winkle Lot B 12 year. That's why many say it as close to Pappy as you can get -- for a whole lot less.

Why Weller Isn't Pappy
At first, this may seem like a big deal or that it didn't taste good enough to be considered Pappy. However, when you realize Pappy Van Winkle chooses the best of the best, you'll see it can come up a tad short, still be a very good bourbon and become Weller.  The difference between the maturation of one barrel to another can be very slight -- if not almost indiscernible -- except by a highly trained whiskey palate.

In other words, 12-year-old Weller is almost 12-year-old Pappy Van Winkle, except it is findable and cost muchless than Pappy at around $26 for a 750ml bottle.  On the other hand, Pappy Wan Winkle 12 year old runs about $75 a 750ml bottle off the shelf and more in the secondary market.

Weller and Van Winkle of the Same Bourbon Family
Check out this cool chart to see how certain bourbons are "related." Notice on the first tree, the Buffalo Trace tree, that WL Weller 12, in a sense, branches off and through further aging becomes Pappy 15 year, 20 year and 23 year.  Not an exact science, but I think it is a great visual for understanding how certain bourbons "grow" into other bourbons through the art and science of aging.

More Kudos for Weller 12
Recently WL Weller 12 also earned Double Gold at one of the most prestigious  spirits competitions in the world, the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Only one other $25 bourbon, Larceny, distilled by Heaven Hill, also received the Double Gold.

Other Double-Gold bourbons below $50 included Knob Creek Small Batch ($31), Jim Beam Single Barrel ($35), Soldier Valley Small Batch  ($40), Yellow Rose Double Barrel ($40) and Breaker Small Batch ($49). I'll talk more about these in future posts.

Black Saddle Small Batch  ($50),  Four Roses Single Barrel ($50), Stagg, Jr. Small Batch ($50) and Woodford Reserve Double Oaked ($50) also earned Double Gold.

Hill Rock Estate Distillery ($80) and Blanton's Straight From the Barrel ($85) took Double Gold in the over $50 under $100 price range, while Pappy Van Winkle 20-Year ($120) was the lone Double Gold recipient that cost over $100.

To view all results, check out this link.

12 thoughts on “Why W.L. Weller Bourbon Is Almost Pappy Van Winkle”

    1. Well, technically it is not called Pappy Van Winkle 12 year, but I am talking about Van Winkle Special Reserve Lot B –http://oldripvanwinkle.com/products/van-winkle-special-reserve/
      Thanks for reading and commenting.


    2. Agreed. Their is no such thing as Pappy Van Winkle 12 Year Lot B

      Their is:

      Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year
      Old Rip Van Winkle 12 Year “Lot B”
      Van Winkle Family Reserve 13 Year Old Rye
      Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old Family Reserve
      Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year Old Family Reserve
      Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Old Family Reserve

      Overall great article and glad to hear more people are realizing they can find a compromise in WL Weller, which is a fantastic bourbon, if they cannot find and of the Van Winkle Line.


      Bourbon & House

      1. Is it really possible to find Weller 12 for $25? I live on the east coast and haven’t been able to put my hands on a bottle for a couple of years now at any price. Ditto eastern NC, where an ABC rep thought she ‘might’ be able to get a case but, as it turned out, was mistaken. A month ago I found several bottles in Bardstown KY (at Toddy’s) but at $80 each.


        1. I ran across some in Athens, GA a month or so ago for about $35, but that’s the only one I’ve seen in a few years.

          1. I can’t remember the name but it was by a hotel I was staying at. Hampton Suites I think on North Avenue.

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  3. Weller 12 is a fantastic bourbon and worthy of some folk lore status. It is not, however, as close in taste to Van Winkle 12 as this article states. The nose is virtually identical, but they certainly have different tastes. Weller has a totally different midpalate (that’s a little out of whack) while the van winkle is smooth and balanced from start to finish. Both are great, I would be happy to have either in my glass.

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