Kate was recently visiting beautiful Lawton, Oklahoma for a work conference thing and decided to do a bit of dusty hunting whilst down there. True love is that feeling you have when your wife texts you that she is about to go from liquor store to liquor store trying to find something fun for your collection without you asking her to do so. I’ve never been so proud. Anyways, she described all of the stores she hit as “creepy” with our little jackpot coming from the “least creepy” of them, whatever that means. There, right on the middle shelf for all to see, sat 2 1-liter bottles of Weller 12, and 2 bottles of Old Weller Antique 107. While the OWA is easy to find, these had the old label and a 7-year age statement on the bright red neck wrap. She sent me a picture of the bottles and then bought all 4 before I even had the chance to respond. Again, true love. These were retail prices, the store might have known what they had (the clerk called them “hard to find” when Kate was checking out), but they didn’t take advantage, so freaking awesome.
When Kate got home we looked over the OWA and determined it is probably from 2007 per the raised code on the bottom of the bottle. I took to reddit to verify and got the same answer there, so that’s what we are rolling with. So now here we are, we’ve got a freshie of OWA, the 2007 bottle, and a Weller 12, wonder what we should do with them…
So, we lined these puppies up and went to work. We’ll get the common info out of the way first, then focus on directly comparing the differences of each bottle, broken down by stats and tasting components. We will also be fixing up a batch of Poor Man’s Pappy pretty soon and will review that as well. We reviewed a sample from Axis of Whisky here, and will blend our batch with the opposite ratio, so be looking for that in a couple weeks!
Distillery: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Location: Frankfort, Kentucky
Mash Bill: BT Wheated Mash Bill
OWA (2007): $24
W12: $31 (1-liter bottle)
OWA (2007): 7 years
W12: 12 years
OWA: 53.5%/107 proof
OWA (2007): 53.5%/107 proof
W12: 45%/90 proof
OWA: Bright amber
OWA (2007): Bright amber
W12: Deep amber/bronze
OWA: The aroma is very sweet but with some ethanol burn. Green apples, and caramel are the huge notes here. The smell reminds me specifically of those caramel apple pops I used to dominate a million of around Halloween, very interesting.
OWA (2007): Also sweet, but much more balanced with very little ethanol. There is a good amount of fruitiness in the form of dark cherries and a little bit of barrel funk and vanilla (mmmm barrel funk).
W12: The oak from the extra years in the barrel serves to balance this aroma out the best. There is some really nice fruity funk, a lot of caramel, brown sugar, sweet apple, cinnamon, and a distinct nuttiness (specifically peanuts).
OWA: This has a thin, light feel to it with bitter cherries, toffee, green apple, sweet corn, and cinnamon. The oak comes in a bit on the back of the palate but not enough to do any real work on the balance.
OWA (2007): Sweet cherry, almost like maraschino syrup (Kate says cough syrup, but in a good way). Toffee and brown sugar also come in strong as well as some oak which helps curb some of that sweetness. Still a very sweet pour with an almost syrup-y mouthfeel, but again, in a good way.
W12: The first thing that hits here is a rich toffee and a nice, creamy texture. Like on the nose, the oak balances out the sweetness and brings in brown sugar, almonds, and a dark chocolate bitterness. There is a great cherry-vanilla thing and some honey going on here too.
OWA: This one ends up really short and hot when just a touch of lingering spice. I’m left with a flavor of pure alcohol, which isn’t great.
OWA (2007): The finish is much longer on this, but very similar in flavor to the new OWA. The ethanol heat emerges in a big way like in the newer bottle, but comes with some dry oak and cinnamon which is ultimately left instead of pure alcohol. It’s so hot and spicy it hits you with a bang, per Kate. Even though Kate started imitating a dragon that is breathing fire on our dogs, we both like the finish on this one more than the newer bottle.
W12: The smoothest of the finishes. It’s short and sweet with a touch of cinnamon heat but brown sugar and that cherry-vanilla thing are the prominent flavors that hit us. Toffee and caramel are left at the end, leaving us happy that this is the last of the 3 that we tried.
Going into this I knew that there would be slight differences between these 3 bottles, but I was a little surprised how just how big the gaps were. I had a feeling W12 would stand out above the other 2 due to age and the hype in my head, but I did not expect the 2 OWAs to be that far apart. The difference in texture and balance was pretty crazy. I will be doing my best to hold on to these bottles for a long time and I hope we get the chance down the road to compare them to some other old OWAs so we can really see how they differ from year to year.
Bottom line: If you see W12 or a old-style bottle of OWA, buy all there is to buy, and please let us try some.
OWA (2007): 3.5/5