Wednesday, July 30, 2014

John Lipman Explains Why There Is 107 Proof Whiskey

Weller's Original Barrel Proof
Stitzel-Weller's 107 Proof whisky before Old Weller Antique
Photo by John Lipman
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about an extensive tasting of Old Weller Antiques that Mike Jasinski set up:
In it I took a stab at the origins of the brand:

Sally Van Winkle Campbell doesn't mention the "Old W.L. Weller" or "Old Weller Antique" brands by name in "But Always Fine Bourbon". Although she relates a story that "the reason that the distillery came out with 107 proof was because Pap's doctor said he could only have two drinks a day!"

Recently, I got a much better answer from a hero of mine: John Lipman - part of the married duo "Ellenjay" (from the initials "L" and "J", for "Linda" and "John").

If you are interested in the history of Bourbon and rye whiskey you must read  

Not only do John and Linda know and tell the history of American whiskey in detail, they also get out and hunt up the bones of the lost distilleries, get the stories from old timers who remember.  They put boots on the ground.

John Lipman's story about why Stitzel Weller came out with a 107 proof version - Old Weller - is a much better and truer story.  Adapted from his words in our e-mail exchange - here is John Lipman (and all photos are John Lipman's too):

I'm not sure about that doctor story, though.  [Referring to Sally Van Winkle's story that Pappy's Doctor limited him to 2 drinks a day so Pappy made the whiskey stronger].   Of course, doctors might be scarce way out there on the wild Kentucky frontier and maybe there was only one, but I feel hard-pressed to believe that EVERY distiller got the same advice. I do know that Pappy would have been a lot younger and more fit back in the late forties and early fifties when Weller's Original Proof was being sold.

By the way, before those wonderful bottles of "Weller Antique Original 107 BRAND" came to market were several years' worth of "Weller Antique Original 107 PROOF", as in the other pictures. Since all of these actually were 107 proof, I don't know the reason for the changes. Maybe they had planned to dilute the "...Brand" version but never actually did. I dunno.

My conclusion about the ubiquity of 107 proof is that, until 1962, distillers weren't allowed to barrel whiskey at 125 proof the way they do today; the law permitted no higher than 110, and traditional barrelings were mostly at 100. Given the normal rise in proof over 4 years, 107 was probably the expected dumping proof, which was then cut to 100, 86, or 80 in bottling. 107 proof would be what we call "barrel proof" today.

Just about everyone bottled a 107-proof version of their whiskey. A partial list, most of which are currently available, would include:
  • Stitzel Weller Weller Original (Barrel) Proof (no longer produced, of course)
  • Jim Beam Baker's Bourbon
  • Heaven Hill Original Barrel Brand - very difficult to find, but possible. I've included a couple photos.
  • Willett/KBD Pure Kentucky XO (distillation source unknown)
  • Van Winkle Family Reserve 10 and 15 year old 107-proof. This came in a squat bottle similar to the Pure Kentucky from KBD. It predates the current Buffalo Trace version.
  • Buffalo Trace Elmer T. Lee 107 proof (in a black-painted version of the standard Ancient Age bottle; not single barrel)
  • Ancient Age Barrel 107 (not the same as ETL)

and then of course we have...

  • Wild Turkey Rare Breed (108 proof, naturally, because their version of 100 proof was 101; Does anyone recall Chesterfield cigarettes' "silly millimeter longer" ad campaign of about the same time?)

About the only major distillery NOT marketing a 107-proof brand has been Four Roses, and that's because Seagrams' idea of bourbon was 80-proof and available only overseas; the Four Roses sold in the U.S. was a blended abomination. When Jim Rutledge acquired the helm, the 107 fad was already over and besides, he had better things to do with his juice.

Maker's Mark may have had a 107-proof version; they sold (and still do) several varieties available only in Japan.


So, there you have it.  

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Reuven Weinstein's Warm House... And The Killer Blind.

Hanging out on the Internet Bourbon forums you meet and befriend a lot of interesting people.  I love meeting these people in real life.  I've met Reuven Weinstein - a master dusty hunter out of New York - a number of times, but recently I had the great pleasure of spending the whole afternoon with him and his lovely wife Ilana (who was his public face of Facebook for a long time) at his home in Rockaway Park / Belle Harbor.   Ostensibly a house warming - the house has a real story of destruction and rebuilding.  The Weinsteins just recently moved into it.  There was a ton of delicious home made salads, hot wings, and world class smoked BBQ brisket.  Just delicious.  And there was also whiskey - lots of it.  The very best stuff.  Because Reuven is a master whiskey hunter.  The pictures and tasting notes below speak for themselves - but they aren't the reason for the post.  Not at all - but that will come later.

FYI - a different take on this smorgasbord was written up by my friend (and partner in crime) Steven Zeller, The Smoky Beast here:

Reuven is well known in the American whiskey world.  He is a prodigy - a talent at entering neighborhoods that others wouldn't bother with and somehow coming out with a trunk full of absolute treasures from the liquor stores there.  As Reuven toured us through a small portion of the fabulous whiskies he has collected I was amazed time and again by both the fabulous range - from dusty bourbons and the rarest issues to fabulous single malt - with a focus on spectacular and hard to find silent distilleries - and also by our hosts tremendous generosity.  What we tasted that day is not to be forgotten.  And it was but a peek into his fantastic collection.  Which only underscores a curious and oft remarked on fact: Reuven doesn't drink whiskey.  Nope.  He enjoys nosing it.  He produced a 1984 vintage single cask Yamazaki which he particularly enjoyed nosing.  I must concur - it had the most remarkable nose:  a complex and evolving aroma that started with dark cocoa with a hint of anthracite coal combustion (just a hint) and then moving into rich fig pudding baking in rum, and then on to a rich earthiness made farmy by a bit of animal skins.  I could nose that thing all day too.  But ultimately I want to take a sip.  I suspect Reuven will too, someday soon.  I can see the curiosity burning in him.  Meanwhile, his personal code and clean habits keeps him holding back. After Reuven and Ilana served a killer spread of sweet smoky BBQ brisket and lovely home-made sauced hot wings, with homemade slaw, potato salad, green salad and all the fixings,  I made the fatal error of pouring an award-winning Cotswald village Sloe Gin as an after dinner apertif.  Wrong stuff for that crowd!
But, before that happened a lot of whisky got tasted

When I encountered the spread of whiskey on the table my eyes lit on two things right away.  One The Parker Heritage 27 year old legendary PHC2 which I had never tried before.  And right next to it was a 1980s vintage octagonal Wild Turkey 8 year old age statement 1.75 Liter handle.  NOW WE'RE TALKING!  Parker Heritage 2nd edition 27 year old is a legendary statement product from Heaven Hill.  2008 Malt Advocate Magazine's American Whiskey of the Year.  I had tried and enjoyed a Wild Turkey 101 8 yo octagonal handle from the early 90s with Mike Jasinski a little while back.   Lately I've been going deeper with Wild Turkey, and there's a strong argument for the 8 year old WT101 of the 70s-90s as being one my favorite primary expression (i.e. not barrel proof) bourbons.

Parker Heritage 27 48%

Color:  Dark amber
Nose:  Rich rancio malt, sweet sherry nutty rancio, mead honey, deep iterated bourbon vanilla pods: sweetness.  Then tempered by buttery notes and oak incense.
Palate:  Sweet honey malt opening. Waxing into acetone-citrus with ripe cantaloupe, salted caramel with tannin spiciness on the finish.
Light texture on the mouth feel but big spicy finish.  This stuff is a lot like really old cognac with its darkly vinously sugared and oake loaded luxury.  Among the darkest, richest, most indulgent Bourbons I've ever tasted.  A really memorable pour (tasted both at the event and with a 1oz sample tasted at time of writing).


Wild Turkey 101 8 1987 - Octagonal handle 50.5%

This is excellent Bourbon that I've been tasting in a number of contexts.  Here, it's a clear object lesson in the dangers of drinking something you really like immediately after an epic, world class whiskey.  Let's just say, the right time to enjoy a WT101 8yo age statement dusty is NOT immediately after tasting PHC2 27 yo.  Sweet and spicy as decently complex as WT101 was back in the day, it can't hold a candle to the glory cask selected wonder of that PCH2.  It's an unfair juxtaposition.

Color: medium coppery amber
Sweet and comparatively gentle stuff.   Nose:  warm and malty with herbal wafts and a oak sandalwood essence undercurrent.
Palate:  malty juicyfruit opening with both magic marker and candy dish notes.  The mid palate expands into brown sugar, herbal rye spice, warm honey, and sweet alfalfa turning into rye herbal spiciness and then a gentle oak tannin grip with a moderately long finish. Decent density in the mouth.  A perennial favorite, but completely shown the door in that head to head.


Lombard Jewels of Scotland Brora 22 50%

Distilled 1982, Bottled 2004, 22 years old.

Color: Gold
Nose:  Heather, honey, waxy
Palate:  Intense honey, turkish delight (powdered sugar, fruity, nutty)., paraffin, heather florals, meadow grass.  Not peaty or farmy.  Lightly tannin spicy finish is the only hint of age.  A heathery honey highland beauty.  With the waxy floral notes this came off like a Clynelish.  Light and beautiful - but oddly not complex considering it's age and method of manufacture.   I could sip and enjoy this one all day.  A true "session Scotch".  This bottling is all about the sunny, floral, honeyed beautiful side of Brora.  Missing is the earthy farmy animal manure aspects, the peat, smoke, and darkness you often see with that distillery.  I greatly enjoyed it.

(borderline *****)

Highland Park 25 48.1% abv.

Color: light medium amber with coppery glints.

Nose: Heathery wild meadow florals open up for rich malty rancio riding on dusky animal farmy warmth and some underlying peat and sea coast.  Fig cake and old sherry and leather notes play in the middle where the rancio lives.  As it opens, safflower oil and then marigold yellow florals join the heather, sherry, coastal light peat aroma show.

Palate: Sweet and rich on opening with black raisins, stewed black figs and malt sugars tempered by a whiff of brine.  The expansion brings vinous dark sherry notes of purple fruits and leather and tobacco.  It waxes into rich dark oak a satisfying warmth of gentle well integrated coastal peat and tails into a long, sweet, spicy finish with wood and smoke wrapped around the herbal tail of the malt and the lingering sweet of sherry rancio.  This is a full bore beauty of significant complexity and fills your mouth with a tour of the wide gamut of Scotch Whisky flavors - all of them.  Floral, honeyed, sherried, peated, and coastal all combine to make this beautiful spirit.  Like the 12 and the 18 - but with the darkness and intensity cranked up with maturity.  What a beauty.  Impressively, this stood up to the competition on the table with aplomb.


Hirsch Single Cask Canadian 12 53.1%

The rear label only says Candian Whiskey * Single Cask * 12 years old * Lot 98-1 Bottled by Hirsch Distilleries Lawrenceburg, KY for Priess Imports, Ramona CA and bears a sticker in Japanese for sale in the Japanese market.  Rare and interesting as the odd-man-out bottling in the brief but now legendary association of Julian Van Winkle III's bottling operation with Priess Imports which had taken over the A.H. Hirsch lot of 1974 Bourbon from Michters and had started picking up odd lots and bottling those without the "A.H.".

Steve Zeller toasts w PHC2. Anthony Colasacco, right.

Color: light gold.
Nose: honey, herbal cedar with pencil shavings and mineral flint.
Palate, sweet and lean and honey-floral on entry.  Light and clean on the expansion where herbal spice, light clean mineral, and  a bit of grapefruit fruit and also pith astringency take over.  It tastes like a good Canadian blend of a corn base and rye flavoring whiskey.  I wonder what it actually is and which of Canada's distilleries it came from.  My guess would be Alberta distillery.  It has some of those Alberta Premium whiskey flavors.  Very refined for what it is.  Nicely balanced.


This somewhat legendary odd-ball bottling was a housewarming gift of Anthony Colosacco who is best known for his utterly fantastic whiskey bar in Mt, Kisco:  Pour Mt. Kisco.  It's the kind of bar where you can get a flight of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve - or all 3 Rittenhouse 21, 23, and 25.

Pappy was well represented on the table with a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 15 from 2006 and also a 2006 or prior (pre-laser stamped) bottle of Van Winkle 12 Lot B that Ari Susskind had been involved in locating.  Great guys and a great whiskey.  Soft and gentle Stitzel-Weller wheater flavors: mellow cherry root beer sandalwood incensed oaky loveliness.

Ari Susskind (left) Reuven Weinstein (right)

As the party was winding down, our host brought out nicely full glencairns with a mystery blind.  The aroma and flavor were clearly in the lightly sherried highland Scottish malt category.  Steve and I bothed initially guessed a  Macallan dusty.  I had to pull a chair aside and really focus.  My quick notes read:

Color:  amber
Nose, floral incense, hard candy, fig cake, sherry, leather

Palate. Intense (50+% abv) Honeyed, minted fig melon candy black plum with some apple skin waxes into big oak and spicy heat.  Hint of clean highland peat or just big oak tannins.  Maybe some active Spanish or French oak going on?  Inchgower?

That intense perfumed floral candy aspect of front, combined with a some of that unripe apple tartness put me in the mind of Inchgower - but also An Cnoc, Balblair, and Tomatin.  Yet this particular whisky clearly wasn't any of those.  I was purely stumped.  Later that evening Reuven texted the reveal:  It was

Convalmore 36 - 1977 Diageo office 2013 realease 58% abv.

(notes above) *****
A retail listing of this whisky at TWE (where the picture is linked from):

Convalmore is one of the legendary silent stills of Scotland, founded in 1893 and closed in the glut days of 1985.  The story is well told on Malt Madness:

When I got home I had to put it up against  this 10 cl sample of Connoisseur's Choice Convalmore 17 40% Gordon & MacPhail 1981-1998 (bottled by Van Der Boog, Holland - and brought to a recent tasting by my friend Bram Hoogendijk - thanks Bram!)

Convalmore 17 40% Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseur's Choice 1981-1998

Color: Gold
Nose:  Honey and floral heather with a hint of white white tartness, chalk mineral, and yellow grass in the Sun.
Palate: Sweet and gently honeyed on the opening with an immediate tart crisp apple skin quality.  Floral and tart fruit on the expansion with a dry perfume aspect on top of a rich barley-malt chassis.  The turn is all perfume and young sawn dried oak planks.  Beautiful - and very much in the Inchgower/AnCnoc wheelhouse - yet totally unique.  (Serge Valentin noted a touch of peat on the way to giving it a 76).

An amazing opportunity to taste a rare and special bottling of the rare Convalmore distillate in its very mature state.  In conversations on-line I speculated about the spicy heat on the back end of the 36 year old 1977 Diageo bottling.  Was it peat or spicy oak?  Rubin Luyten of thought it might be a bit of peat (his excellent review is here):

Angus MacRaild (Angus MacWhisky) - expert on ancient Scotch par excellence e.g.: - thought it was the wood:

" I'd say it is most likely from the wood given that it's a mix of european and american oak aged for over 36 years. At that sort of age you can definitely get a certain amount of phenolic extraction from the wood which can come through as medicinal/spicy/smoky/menthol in varying degrees. I doubt that Convalmore had any regular or meaningful peating level during the mid-late 70s. The ones I've tried from that time reveal it to have a spicy/herbaceous quality which I feel is very much part of the house style and derives more from the distillate. Anyway, I'm very much in agreement about the 36yo, it's an absolutely stonking dram!"

Stonking dram indeed.  I can't believe it was just handed out as a blind tasting as the post dessert apertif.  That's class.  Thanks, Reuven, for a wonderful time and a fabulous education!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Large Scale Tasting Of Dusty Old Weller Antiques 1998-2008 Tasted Blind & Compared With The Current Stuff.

11 Years of Old Weller Antique from 1998 (left) to 2008 (right).
The invitation came a couple of months ago.  Mike Jasinski - master dusty hunter and a great lover of old bourbons - had assembled a flight of Old Weller Antique paper labels bottles from 1998 to 2008: a full 11 years that chart the brands movement from Stitzel-Weller to Buffalo Trace.  These dusty bottles have become extremely popular these days and hard to find.  In the past few years the 7 year old age statement was dropped and the bottle design was changed from a stock cylinder with an antique looking paper label to a rounded ball shaped bottle with the ink printed right on the bottle (pictures of the current bottle are at the bottom).   Mike wanted a group of whiskey people to come out and taste them all blind - reporting our findings with numerical scores on the 100 point scale.  
We, however, tasted them blind - self poured from these flasks marked only by a number.

1940 BIB
(photo from Bonham's)
The brand, "Old Weller" harkens back to Pappy Van Winkle's original employer, William LaRue Weller who started his famous whiskey company in Louisville, KY in 1849.  The legendary inventor of the wheated whiskey mash bill (where wheat is used instead of rye as the flavoring grain, above a corn base and bit of malt to add enzymes).  Stitzel-Weller sold the wheated mash bill in a number of expressions, notably Rebel Yell, Cabin Still, and Old Fitzgerald.  Sam Cecil (in The Evolution of Kentucky Whiskey) reports that "Old W.L. Weller" (along with Mammoth Cave and Cabin Still) were brands that Pappy Van Winkle bottled after W. L. Weller's death in 1899 and before partnering with A. Ph. Stitzel during Prohibition using whiskey sourced from the Stitzel Bros.distillery in Louisville and the Old Joe distillery in Anderson.  Looking over old auction records I see the Old W. L Weller Special Reserve expression at 100 proof (as a Bottled In Bond expression) in the Repeal era (see photo at left taken from the October 2013 Bonham's NY Whiskey sale).  The "Old Weller" brand name doesn't seem to appear until the gold veined paper label incarnation apparently born in the early 1970s.  The earliest ad I could find showing it is from 1979 (below):
Ad from 1979 talks about the gold veining.
The word "Antique", however, is absent.
Chuck Cowdery lauds Old Weller Antique as a great value at $16 for a 7 year old in the back of his essential book Straight Bourbon (highly recommended) without reference to the brand's history. Sally Van Winkle Campbell doesn't mention the "Old W.L. Weller" or "Old Weller Antique" brands by name in "But Always Fine Bourbon".  Although she relates a story that "the reason that the distillery came out with 107 proof was because Pap's doctor said he could only have two drinks a day!"  If that's true then the Old Weller Antique expression dates to the mid-1960s (Pappy died in 1966), which jibes pretty well with the fact that I can't find a bottle or mention until 1970 or so.
(Update.  John Lipman (of has a much better explanation.  I posted it here:)

That said, the expression existed through some very solid glory years of Stitzel-Weller (S-W) and then through a transition to production at Ancient Age / Buffalo Trace.  Experience tasting the Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve bottlings from 2009-2013 have shown me that Buffalo Trace has a good handle on the Stitzel-Weller wheated mash bill flavor component.  The first in the series we'd be tasting at Mike's house would be a 1998 Stitzel-Weller Old Weller Antique (abbreviated "OWA" henceforth) - labeled "Louisville".  The rest would be labelled "Frankfort" but, presumably there would be a transition period where Stitzel-Weller stocks would still be used until Buffalo Trace's Frankfort stocks took over.  The Old Weller brand was sold by United Distillers to Sazerac in 1999 (which renamed the Frankfort, KY Ancient Age distillery  Buffalo Trace (BT)  in that same year, 1999).

Update: I'm wrong here.  I left out the period of time the Old Weller wheater recipe was made at New Bernheim where United Distillers (later to become Diageo) had consolidated Bourbon production - leading to the closing of Stitzel-Weller.  Thanks, Mike Jasinski, for setting it straight, in the comments on this post.  Also, in the comments below, Mike adds tasting notes: "The noses are dead giveaways as to which bottle is which. 98-01 had the typical green apple SW nose it is very muted but it is there. The 02-05 have they typical cherried sweet nose that Bernheim distilled wheated bourbons have. The 06-08 bottlings are very typical of the BT wet cardboard nose."

Mike (right center) and Claire Doorden,
(left center), welcome guests
Could we pick out the S-W 1998 stuff blind?  Could we taste a clear demarcation to BT?  Because Mike asked everyone to use a 100 point numerical scale I will be using that grading system for these.  Mike could swear he could identify BT by an aroma that I was classifying as "linseed oil" but which Mike called "cardboard".  Once he used that word I couldn't help but use it myself.  Cardboard - like sniffing the inside of a brown cardboard box is a good description of the aroma.  You'll see it mentioned in my nosing notes quite a bit below.  It's not as bad as it sounds. It's earthy and woody and sits among the floral and deep sugar notes.  As you can see by the scores below, all this stuff ranges from very good to excellent.

Josh Camerote pours himself a blind.

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 1998 Stitzel-Weller.  Blind #4

Color:  medium amber
Nose:  Honeyed, fruity, oily, mossy, flinty.  Hint of tobacco.
Palate:  Sweet, fruity honeyed.  Maple, treacle shoo fly pie.  Cherry, citrus.
My score:  87  Mike's composite score:  87.

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 1999 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #9

Color: dark medium amber
Nose:  honey toffee, cherry, cola, juicyfruit, oil, sandalwood.
Palate:  Intense sweet sandalwood and rancio.  Chewy mouth feel and long sweet oaky finish
My score: 91  Mike's composite Score: 92

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 2000 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #1

Color: Dark amber
Nose: maple syrup juicyfruit.  Brown sugar toffee
Palate:  honey, malty toffee.  Cornflower, apricot bark.  Cherry, root beer
My score:  92  Mike's composite score: 92

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 2001 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #8

Color:  dark amber (darkest yet)
Nose: Beautiful nose, floral cardboard
Palate: Honey, ripe cantaloupe, Turkish delight. Candy oak perfume
My score: 89  Mike's composite score: 88

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 2002 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #2

Color:  dark amber (a shade darker than blind #1).
Nose light dusty musty oaky malt cherry cocoa.  Trace of iodine.
Palate, sweet cherry cola, char, tannin bitterness.
My score: 87  Mike's composite score:  87

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 2003 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #11

Color:  dark medium amber
Nose:  Cardboard, malt toffee rancio brown sugar
Palate: Candied, toffeed, sandalwood perfumed glory.
My score: 91  Mike's composite score: 91

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 2004 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #6

Color:  dark amber like 3
Nose: floral sandalwood, cherry, cardboard
Palate: Sweet, cherry, toffee, char and oak tannin.  Longer oaky maple finish with a bitter edge.
 My score 86 (bitter finish knocked it down)  Mike's composite score:  87

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 2005 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #3

Color: dark amber, shade darker than 2 and 1
Nose: Oily, char. A little meaty
Palate: Fruity.  Tiny bit sour
My score: 88  Mike's Composite score: 88

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 2006 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #7

Color: dark medium amber
Nose: Cardboard cherry juicyfruit
Palate:  honey, cherry toffee juicyfruit.  Oak tannin
My score: 88  Mike's composite score: 87

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 2007 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #10

Color: almost as dark as 8/3
Nose: Cardboard, dark, sweet toffee, char, a hint of mildew
Palate: Sweet, cherry, cocoa, dark malt, cocoa, root beer.  Fruity, dark brown and delicious.  Char & edge of bitter char on finish.
My score: 90  Mike's composite score: 89

Old Weller Antique 7 yo. 53.5% abv. 2008 Buffalo Trace.  Blind #5

Color: light medium amber
Nose: Linseed nose, honey, yellow flowers
Palate:  honey, treacle, mint notes, honeysuckle,
My score: 88  Mike's composite score 87

Conclusion:  The Stitzel-Weller in the group wasn't the highest rated and it wasn't apparent to me at the time that it was the Stitzel-Weller one.  I like to think I can see some of the tell tale signs in my tasting notes and that if I were really paying attention I might have caught it.  Coulda Woulda Shoulda.  The bottom line is that it's all delicious Bourbon - with some significant variation between a dark and malty rich variety and a lighter amber more floral and fruity variety.  These varieties don't seem to correlate with year at all.  I suspect it's about barrel variation and rickhouse location.  While my 3 top rated ones were all dark and rich, the lighter ones were excellent drinking in their own right.  And notice that the Stitzel-Weller one was one of the lightest ones.

It makes a lot of sense to compare these experiences of tasting an extensive group of dusty Old Weller Antiques against the stuff you can buy today.  It's extremely popular and lauded.  So popular, however, that it has gone on allocation (i.e. a rationed limited supply to distributes).  It can still be readily found - particularly earlier in each month.  It's the same Buffalo Trace stuff, just now without an age statement.  Does that matter?  I tasted the bottle of Old Weller Antique that I have open at the moment (purchased late 2013) the following day at home - in the open (i.e. not blind).  This was a completely different tasting.  But just one day later the flavors of the paper label OWAs were fresh in my mind.

New Old Weller Antique 107 - no age statement.  53.5% abv. Bottle purchased 2013

Color: Medium light amber
Nose:  Vanilla, floral, hints of mint and lilac.  Light linseed oil/cardboard note.
Palate:  Opening is hotter and less malty than any of the examples tasted at Mike's.  It is grassy sweet with corn and apricot-citrus and cherry fruity notes along with some acetone notes.  The mid palate turns to oak and char, but with a more bitter presentation.
My score: 82

Conclusion.  It's still a wonderful Bourbon for the money, but it has lost a measure of depth of flavor, malty richness, and candied intensity.  With youth it has gained floral, herbal, and fruity notes - but the overall balance is thinner and less lush.

Phil Simon checks Mike's treasures
Phil Simon brought treasures
of his own too. 

The after party to this event was epic.  Major events included Phil Simon bringing a bottle of the legendary Hirsch Rye 13.  This epic bottle will be the topic of it's own post soon, but for the moment here are quick tasting notes taken at the event (when my palate was, admittedly, a bit toasted):

Hirsch 13 rye 47.8 % Medley bottled for Priess by Julian Van Winkle

Color: Dark coppery amber
Nose: caramel toffee, soft lanolin, cut daisy, cilantro flower
Palate;  Gentle, effervescent, malty, caramel, brown sugar, rum rancio, herbal, cinnamon.  Complex, rich, and superb.

Mike then opened a Louisville bottling of W. L Weller Centennial
Then people started getting goofy.
Other highlights included Mike's Louisville bottling of W. L. Weller Centennial, the last of his open bottle of 1916-1922 Old Bridgeport Mongahela PA rye (the topic of an upcoming post), the excellent Diageo bottling of Rosebank 21, and an amazing 1940s Old Taylor (that also needs its own post).  What a wonderful evening!  Thanks Mike and Claire!  Looking forward to our next 2am drive to Waffle House!