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View Full Version : Buffalo Trace/Van Winkle/Stitzl-Weller question



weller_tex
03-01-2012, 07:28
OK guys. Newbie here with a question. Based on reviews I have read I decided not to attempt to get any Spring Release PVW 15, if there is any. The one glass I had of PVW 15 4 years ago (definitely SW juice) was so incredibly sweet and rich and wonderful. It sounds like the new PVW 15 that is all BT juice is more of the oaky variety...maybe closer to Weller 12 or even WLW. It is easier to get WLW and I can get the Weller 12 everyday (at least until BT discontinues it which I assume is coming) for $23.

My question is, Buffalo Trace has all the expertise of the Van Winkle family, and I would imagine they have recipes from the old SW distillery even outside of the Van Winkles. Why not just duplicate the old SW formula? Is that not possible due to the fact that they aren't using the old SW stills? So what was it that made the 6-12 year old SW juice so good? I remember it from my youth, although I did not appreciate it as much at the time. Be gentle with me, my bourbon knowledge is getting better but I still don't know much about how it's made other than the basics.

jburlowski
03-01-2012, 08:30
They can't just "duplicate" the S-W formula because they don't have theS-W yeast or the S-W distillery. Both are components that can significantly add / subtract from the end product.

BT uses the same mash bill & yeast for both the Weller expressions and the VW expressions. No one knows for sure if there are differences (although there has been much speculation) betwen the BT wheat mash bill and the old S-W wheat mash bill.

Julian (and Preston) Van Winkle are not distillers. But Julian, IMO, knows great bourbon. Anything he puts his family name / brand on is the really, really good stuff. YMMV.

Parkersback
03-01-2012, 08:33
Hello, Tex, welcome aboard. It's great to have you.

I am a relative newbie myself, and one of the joys of this place is the search function. I have spent many a long night combing through these threads learning a ton.

I just typed "why is stitzel weller special" into the SB search engine and got this thread, which is in fact called, *Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??*

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9605

There's lots more threads just like this one.

Which isn't to say you can't ask similar questions to what's been asked before. We keep on dancing around the same topics all the time, that's the fun if it. But the search engine will help you let you eavesdrop on similar conversations that have been had in the past.

One final note: I don't find Weller 12 to be oaky at all. If anything, I maybe sometimes wish it had a little tiny bit more heft to it. But basically I really like the stuff.

luther.r
03-01-2012, 08:46
From my understanding they are using the SW recipe as close as they could come. When they bought the Weller brand they essentially started out using the SW recipe, then in 2004 they tweaked the process some more with Preston and Julian's help. But that juice won't be ready for Pappy 15 until 2019.

Even with the recipe exact, you have to take into consideration changes mentioned above like the equipment and yeast, as well as the nuances of the distiller, the cooperage making the barrels and char used, and the barrel warehousing. There are so many factors that can make a difference.

Bmac
03-01-2012, 08:47
I have often wondered the same. I bought the BT's version of the Van Winkle 12 yr Family Reserve Lot B and it was only marginally better than W.L.Weller 12yr; which was shocking to me given the price difference.

I read the other thread and there was a part where it stated "it's all about nostalgia or taste." I don't completely agree. I have 54 bottles of alcohol, include over 30 different bourbons. The SW version of the PVW15yr is just flat-out superior. I have never had any other SW juice, so it isn't nostalgia. I have had friends over who swear by their various bourbons who tried PVW 15yr and were blown away. I have had people over who HATE bourbon in all forms; but absolutely loved PVW15yr.

There is indeed something special about SW juice that BT just can't get right.

A factor I didn't really consider was cooperage. In the thread mentioned above they said SW created barrels that allowed for more contact with the barrel. I wonder about that because most barrels are a "standard" size and use the same type of wood (for the most part). The difference is usually the toasting and char level.

With all that said...someone in the other thread said rather truthfully that there is no distillery like SW and there will likely never be again. Not only am I sad that it's gone, but I am more saddened that I wasn't around to enjoy it in it's heyday.

weller_tex
03-01-2012, 08:54
Hello, Tex, welcome aboard. It's great to have you.

I am a relative newbie myself, and one of the joys of this place is the search function. I have spent many a long night combing through these threads learning a ton.

I just typed "why is stitzel weller special" into the SB search engine and got this thread, which is in fact called, *Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??*

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthread.php?t=9605

There's lots more threads just like this one.

Which isn't to say you can't ask similar questions to what's been asked before. We keep on dancing around the same topics all the time, that's the fun if it. But the search engine will help you let you eavesdrop on similar conversations that have been had in the past.

One final note: I don't find Weller 12 to be oaky at all. If anything, I maybe sometimes wish it had a little tiny bit more heft to it. But basically I really like the stuff.

Thanks for the welcome! I will make use of the Search function in the future!

weller_tex
03-01-2012, 08:57
They can't just "duplicate" the S-W formula because they don't have theS-W yeast or the S-W distillery. Both are components that can significantly add / subtract from the end product.

BT uses the same mash bill & yeast for both the Weller expressions and the VW expressions. No one knows for sure if there are differences (although there has been much speculation) betwen the BT wheat mash bill and the old S-W wheat mash bill.

Julian (and Preston) Van Winkle are not distillers. But Julian, IMO, knows great bourbon. Anything he puts his family name / brand on is the really, really good stuff. YMMV.

Yeast..yep forgot about that. My wife was able to snag one of the only two bottles of OVRW 90 proof that we got in Houston as a Christmas present for me. It is really, really good stuff. As much as I like the Weller products, the ORVW 90 is maybe slightly better.

weller_tex
03-01-2012, 08:58
From my understanding they are using the SW recipe as close as they could come. When they bought the Weller brand they essentially started out using the SW recipe, then in 2004 they tweaked the process some more with Preston and Julian's help. But that juice won't be ready for Pappy 15 until 2019.

Even with the recipe exact, you have to take into consideration changes mentioned above like the equipment and yeast, as well as the nuances of the distiller, the cooperage making the barrels and char used, and the barrel warehousing. There are so many factors that can make a difference.

Cool! I will mark down 2019 on my calendar!

AaronWF
03-01-2012, 10:16
Julian actually addresses this very question quite directly in the current issue of Whisky Advocate. I don't have it in front of me, but I was honestly a little shocked with his transparency in such a public interview.

One component that he mentions and I've seen mentioned elsewhere in the forum is the size and character of the grind of the grain.

weller_tex
03-01-2012, 11:06
I need to be pick up a copy of that and need to subscribe. That makes sense. The corn especially has to be quite different, and likely inferior.

White Dog
03-01-2012, 12:37
Julian actually addresses this very question quite directly in the current issue of Whisky Advocate. I don't have it in front of me, but I was honestly a little shocked with his transparency in such a public interview.

One component that he mentions and I've seen mentioned elsewhere in the forum is the size and character of the grind of the grain.

I found that interview fascinating myself.

Bmac
03-01-2012, 13:11
I need to be pick up a copy of that and need to subscribe. That makes sense. The corn especially has to be quite different, and likely inferior.
If you subscribe now, do they send you that issue or do you have to wait for the next issue? (only 4 a year)

c2walker
03-01-2012, 13:11
If you subscribe now, do they send you that issue or do you have to wait for the next issue? (only 4 a year)

They'll send you the current issue.

TheDude
03-01-2012, 20:29
I find the S-W threads pretty fascinating. I've only had S-W on a few occasions (and I feel lucky to have had the opportunity) and it is definitely excellent bourbon that can't be reproduced again. Even with the same recipe, there are so many variables. The climate in Louisville can sometimes vary in temperature, etc. from the distilleries in Bardstown, Lawrenceburg, etc. due to the location right along the Ohio river. I live in Louisville and work in Frankfort. There are days when the temps vary 10-15 degrees and they are only 50 miles apart. The aging warehouses at the S-W property are different than those at BT, and there are many other factors that just can't be reproduced from distillery to distillery.

Also, S-W during the Pappy Van Winkle days produced bourbon to a quality standard that few other companies did at that time. The commitment to quality ingredients and careful distilling/aging wasn't the best way to turn a profit. Many distillers really just tried to make as much bourbon as quickly as they could, and there was some seriously lousy bourbon on the shelves in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Here's a question I always ask myself--how would S-W/Old Fitz compare in today's bourbon market? Since the "small batch/single barrel" revolution, there are several master distillers out there who have the same pride and meticulous attention to detail that Pappy did. People like Jim Rutledge and Jimmy Russell come to mind. They are bourbon legends in their own right--and like Pappy, pretty interesting characters to boot. I think there would be much more parity in the bourbon market today if S-W was still in business.

Again, it was great, classic bourbon. But in my opinion the mystique, history and the fact that it isn't available anymore make S-W the legend that it is. No offense to the Van Winkles...I still buy Pappy and ORVW everytime I see a bottle. They know a good barrel of bourbon when they taste it, and their family story certainly makes this a much more interesting hobby.

bigtoys
03-01-2012, 22:24
I love these vW/SW threads. Several years ago I was looking for a bourbon gift for a friend and Pappy 20 was recommended and I went for it. Got myself a bottle, too. Hooked ever since. Virtually everyone who tries it loves it. Of course, I also tried the Pappy 15, but for me (and most of my buddies), the 20 RULES. Perfect sweetness. Pappy 23--too strong/woody. Love the vW Rye, but only have about 1.5 bottles. Several Lot Bs in the bunker, too.
So, over the last few years, I've bought several bottles of both 15 and 20 when they're available. Even have some signed by Julian from Lush the night before WhiskyFest (maybe 2009 or 2010). I even had him sign one (Pappy 15) to my son to give (and hopefully share with) him on his 21st birthday. The Pappy 20 I had him sign to me for my retirement I accidentally opened.
Trouble is, I don't know if any of the more recent 15's aren't SW and if so, which bottles they are. Is there anyway to tell? For sure, if I get some 15 (or 20) this spring, I'm gonna mark them as 2012, so I know when I bought them.
looking forward to reading the interview this weekend--long time subscriber to Malt Advocate, now Whisky.
Hopefully, as has been said many times here, Julian knows good bourbon and hopefully anything he puts the family name on will live up to expectations.

a peek. notice the red velvet on the floor. drank a whole bottle of Pappy 20 a few weeks ago with one other guy over 2 nights while traveling with our sons' volleyball team. He said he'd try it, but he liked to mix it with Coke. I convinced him to try it straight and he was hooked. Every time I asked if he wanted a drink, he said, "yes".
http://i230.photobucket.com/albums/ee132/bigtoys335/WineInventorySept2011bourbonvW4R.jpg

BarrelChar
03-01-2012, 22:41
Trouble is, I don't know if any of the more recent 15's aren't SW and if so, which bottles they are. Is there anyway to tell?


Yes. Check out this great post by Sku: http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2011/11/pappy-van-winkle-know-your-bottle-codes.html

StraightBoston
03-02-2012, 10:36
Again, it was great, classic bourbon. But in my opinion the mystique, history and the fact that it isn't available anymore make S-W the legend that it is. No offense to the Van Winkles...I still buy Pappy and ORVW everytime I see a bottle. They know a good barrel of bourbon when they taste it, and their family story certainly makes this a much more interesting hobby.

Having had quite a few examples of Stitzel-Weller bourbon, and in spite of being a big fan of the wheaters produced at BT, I have to disagree. To my palate, S-W juice is superior regardless of mystique and scarcity.

I would further venture that the Julian/Preston-picked bottles of S-W bourbon are worthy of the hype -- some of the barrels that went into Cabin Still or Rebel Yell back in the day were pretty harsh stuff, and I think most agree that Pappy 15 and 20 trump the JRPS 17 or 18. (Whether they are worth the premium price is an individual decision -- I drink Weller over Lot B these days.)

As to what changed or why it can't be reproduced -- it's hard to say, but it's not unique to S-W. I find older versions of almost every current mid-shelf bourbon still being made at the same distillery (Beam, Makers, Turkey, etc.) to have a richness and flavor that's not there today. Buffalo Trace seems the exception to me over past AA products. My money is on a combination of yeast, entry proof and age, with changes in corn (breeding) and wood (new growth) strong candidates as well.

StraightNoChaser
03-02-2012, 10:45
Ah, I remember my first Pappy :grin:

Neat
03-02-2012, 13:01
another houstonian!:grin: or :smiley_acbt: ?:lol:

you got a bunch of great responses. i agree with what the others are saying and what you've already concluded: the current BT Pappy's are not as good as the SW Pappy's. having said that, julian van winkle may not be a distiller but he sure does know how to pick the barrels! the current lot b is the "best" of the weller 12's. is it worth the price difference? to me, no. 2011's pvw 15 (i got a couple of bottles) - definitely not the same as the first pvw 15's i had. more heat, slightly shorter finish, not as "full" and slightly different taste. still great bourbon but i will not be going out of my way to get it like i had to for the past few years (i love the days when it wasn't as well known).

you are fortunate that houston is (was?) a pretty good dusty hunting ground. unfortunately, most of the SW dusties (as well as other most prized dusties) were picked clean. definitely before i started dusty hunting. i found some dusty SW juice (wellers) but pure luck. fwiw, i've had dusty SW weller (107 and WSR 90) and they are good stuff but i wouldn't pay the prices i've seen people paying on "that" internet site.

Neat
03-02-2012, 13:02
Ah, I remember my first Pappy :grin:

it's kind of like old girlfriends - time makes them hotter and better. :slappin:

Bmac
03-02-2012, 21:18
I think Heaven Hill or Buffalo Trace could/should be able to put out a whiskey worthy of SW.

Buffalo Trace is sort of trying with their new oak project. A few of those bottles followed a similar course as pappy, just perhaps too young.

Heaven Hill has something like 700,000 barrels aging. Heck, they even have a barrel from 1968 and so on to add to the Golden Anniversary PHC. So they may have SW worthy juice and not even know it.

It makes you wonder if these distillers even know what they're sitting on?

My two cents are that i was disappointed with Lot B BT-juice. I might not buy again. PVW 15 SW-juice is still for me the best bourbon i have ver tasted and i will rate all others against it.

bigtoys
03-02-2012, 21:26
Yes. Check out this great post by Sku: http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2011/11/pappy-van-winkle-know-your-bottle-codes.html

thanks! quite easy. will check my bottles; suspect (hope) that most are S-W.

tommyboy38
03-02-2012, 22:06
Why doesn't BT just use their time machine and go back to KY-DSP 16 circa 1980. Problem solved.

mosugoji64
03-02-2012, 23:29
Why doesn't BT just use their time machine and go back to KY-DSP 16 circa 1980. Problem solved.

You know, it's such a simple solution they probably never considered it.
:slappin::lol::slappin::lol::slappin:

tmckenzie
03-03-2012, 03:05
Or put in a roller mill and set it with a wide gap. That could be part of the flavor in the sw stuff. I had not thought about it until I read the interview in the Whiskey Advocate. I have played around with milling and it does change the taste. When there are larger peices of grain in the mash, the fermenter takes on a more sour smell and it carries over in the whiskey. My theory is that there is some starch in the middle of those big peices and it sours instead of fermenting. That in turn could interact with the barrel making interesting flavors. I have heard it said, the best whiskey comes from white dog that does not taste the best. Some people say a roller is better because it does not heat the grain, like a hammer mill. I disagree. We use a hammer mill and it flies through there so fast it does not have time to get hot. One thing grinding bigger does is hurt your yield.

Special Reserve
03-03-2012, 03:30
I think Heaven Hill or Buffalo Trace could/should be able to put out a whiskey worthy of SW.

I know they did, try PHC 10.

Bmac
03-03-2012, 05:43
I know they did, try PHC 10.

I have PHC 1st ed, 3rd ed, and the new 5th ed. They are all tremendous whiskeys and i love them. The PVW just thag little extra something in the finish that gives me spontaneous permagrin :). Its like difference between "oh, that's good!" and "woe, holy shnikies that's amazing!"

T Comp
03-03-2012, 06:32
...Some people say a roller is better because it does not heat the grain, like a hammer mill. I disagree. We use a hammer mill and it flies through there so fast it does not have time to get hot. One thing grinding bigger does is hurt your yield.

Shhh...your hurting the Maker's tour guide's schtick :grin: .

hectic1
03-03-2012, 06:58
I have PHC 1st ed, 3rd ed, and the new 5th ed. They are all tremendous whiskeys and i love them. The PVW just thag little extra something in the finish that gives me spontaneous permagrin :). Its like difference between "oh, that's good!" and "woe, holy shnikies that's amazing!"
The PHC 10 is the 4th bottling and it's the only wheated one of the bunch...IMO it's the best one too! :cool:

weller_tex
03-03-2012, 10:17
another houstonian!:grin: or :smiley_acbt: ?:lol:

you got a bunch of great responses. i agree with what the others are saying and what you've already concluded: the current BT Pappy's are not as good as the SW Pappy's. having said that, julian van winkle may not be a distiller but he sure does know how to pick the barrels! the current lot b is the "best" of the weller 12's. is it worth the price difference? to me, no. 2011's pvw 15 (i got a couple of bottles) - definitely not the same as the first pvw 15's i had. more heat, slightly shorter finish, not as "full" and slightly different taste. still great bourbon but i will not be going out of my way to get it like i had to for the past few years (i love the days when it wasn't as well known).

you are fortunate that houston is (was?) a pretty good dusty hunting ground. unfortunately, most of the SW dusties (as well as other most prized dusties) were picked clean. definitely before i started dusty hunting. i found some dusty SW juice (wellers) but pure luck. fwiw, i've had dusty SW weller (107 and WSR 90) and they are good stuff but i wouldn't pay the prices i've seen people paying on "that" internet site.

Yes GREAT responses, and I appreciate folks not getting irritated about rehashing an old subject. Guess folks don't get tired of talking about S-W. I here through some folks that the last bottle of S-W bourbon is now gone from Houston area stores.

dohidied
03-03-2012, 10:37
Yes GREAT responses, and I appreciate folks not getting irritated about rehashing an old subject. Guess folks don't get tired of talking about S-W. I here through some folks that the last bottle of S-W bourbon is now gone from Houston area stores.

that's the beautiful thIng about dusty hunting. Even if you visited every liquor store, you still don't know what's in the basement. Old liquor stores go out of business and their inventories get bought and moved, replenishing the dusties. Go take a look at the Dusty Finds thread in the Collectibles forum.