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View Full Version : What's behind the Stitzel Weller praise?



plaidford
10-04-2006, 21:58
I'm relatively new to bourbon - really just taking more than a passing interest in the last year or so - and just picked up my 1st bottle of an SW product today.

I was a bit stoked at the whole idea of snagging a SW bottle -- but then wondered...why? It's actually a product I haven't heard of (David Nicholson 7 year old BIB) - I just bought it because of the DSP KY 16.

It made me think of my other vice -- cigars -- and the hype around Cuban cigars. After several years, I have come to recognize that a lot of the praise given to Cuban cigars is warranted, but there are also some not-so-good Cuban cigars - especially from certain years, etc. And, conversely, there are also some very good non-Cuban cigars.

So...to my question....what makes Stitzel Weller bourbon so good? Is it the master distiller? The equipment? The location? The raw ingredients? Is it just the "hard-to-get" factor because the distillery is no more? Or maybe it's a combination of a lot of these things and there's just a sort of intangible "they did things 'right'" about it.

Is there any not-so-good Stitzel Weller product (and please don't say David Nicholson!)?

Just trying to learn a little while enjoying my new hobby!

TNbourbon
10-04-2006, 23:18
...So...to my question....what makes Stitzel Weller bourbon so good? Is it the master distiller? The equipment? The location? The raw ingredients? Is it just the "hard-to-get" factor because the distillery is no more? Or maybe it's a combination of a lot of these things and there's just a sort of intangible "they did things 'right'" about it...

All of those things. Serendipity. Most of the whiskey 'pros' will expound the beneficences of the copper in Stitzel-Weller's still. And, of course, the grain recipe's legacy continues today, for it formed the basis of the subsequent success of Maker's Mark (Bill Samuels Sr. got his mashbill from "Pappy" Van Winkle when starting MM).
For me, it's a lot simpler than that -- I find S-W bourbon remarkably drinkable and flavorful, despite the general perception that wheated bourbons are 'tamer' than rye-recipe ones.
I'll admit, if Stitzel-Weller still operated, I'd be less inclined to hurry out and buy up what I can find. But I'd still buy it when I ran out. It's worth always having on hand.
Personally, I have an affinity for the standard S-W brands: W.L. Weller, and Old Fitzgerald (especially the BIB) and its variants. I find Rebel Yell, Cabin Still and David Nicholson to be lesser labels, though certainly drinkable. The current Van Winkle labels that contain DSP-KY-16 whiskey are stellar.

jvanwinkle
10-05-2006, 12:50
If that bottle of David Nicholson "1843" is in a squat bottle, it was distilled at the Berhnheim, Heaven Hill Distillery in Louisville, not Stitzel-Weller, even though there is a DSP-16 somewhere on that label.
Someone at the Gazebo in Bardstown at this year's KY Bourbon Festival had a bottle & it was awful. I'm just guessing the whiskey was made at HH since the owners of 1983 not get their production from there since SW is no longer.
Julian

luv2hunt
10-05-2006, 12:56
OH....you just burst his bubble! Don't worry....I've been the "queen" of purchasing mistakes......it all still adds flavor in cooking!

Dawn

Nebraska
10-05-2006, 13:16
I have that actual bottle from the Gazebo in my liquor cabinet. Now I can tell people that ask about it "Yep this is the bottle Julian Van Winkle reaches for when he's in Bardstown". :slappin:

You're right it was very bad. I was however surprised by the Pappy 4 year old, it wasn't too bad for what it was.:rolleyes:

Nebraska
10-05-2006, 13:44
I guess I should add, in all seriousness, that I am really enjoying your Rye that I was able to find down there and the Pappy 20 (which is undeniably SW).

plaidford
10-05-2006, 16:53
Argh....yes, it is the squat bottle. I was doing some research last night and found a thread in the Collectibles Forum about this very bottle.

I've "borrowed" a picture from that thread and re-posted here. The bottle I purchase is just like the one on the right in both pics, with the "This Whiskey is 7 Years Old" wording on it.

You can see on the back label: "Distilled by Old Fitzgerald Distillery DSP-KY-16" Then, on the next line: "Bottled by David Nicholson Distillery Co DSP-MO-16"

Again, I'm relatively new to this -- and not questioning you, certainly -- but how do they still use the DSP-KY-16 on their label? My impression, from another recent thread, is that the DSP number stays with the still. The other thread indicates that the Bernheim still is 17.

Now trying to learn from my mistake. "Argh" again!

MikeK
10-05-2006, 17:20
So...to my question....what makes Stitzel Weller bourbon so good? Is it the master distiller? The equipment? The location? The raw ingredients? Is it just the "hard-to-get" factor because the distillery is no more? Or maybe it's a combination of a lot of these things and there's just a sort of intangible "they did things 'right'" about it.

Stitzel Weller bourbon, for me, has a glorious richness and full flavor, while retaining a soft velvety quality. It is a beast in a prom gown. Is it more fabled because it is a closed distillery? Perhaps. But the hype is deserved. If you keep your eyes open you will occationally come across a real S/W on the shelf. Don't pass it by, it is marvelous.

Rughi
10-05-2006, 17:21
I've "borrowed" a picture from that thread and re-posted here.

This is the link (http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showpost.php?p=66564&postcount=89) to the original posting for background.

I would _guess_ that Julian's comments may refer to the newer bottle, but not the older, but I don't really have any idea of when Sherman's supply of SW ran out. Looks like a sampling of the two may be in order ;)

Roger

plaidford
10-05-2006, 18:45
Roger -- thanks for the link -- hope you don't mind that I borrowed your pics. I actually purchased by bottle at Berbiglia in Liberty, MO - so, not far from where you found yours. They had 4 bottles on the shelf -- 3 without the 7 year expression and 1 with it.



I have that actual bottle from the Gazebo in my liquor cabinet.


Mark -- I wonder if your bottle from the Gazebo has the "This whiskey is 7 years old" quote in red on it?

Brad

Nebraska
10-05-2006, 20:53
Mine is the one without the 7 year expression. I'm thinking yours would taste a little better. Mine is not god-aweful. Not a top shelf.

cowdery
10-05-2006, 21:03
We learned from a recent experience with Rittenhouse that mislabeling happens. We have to assume it's accidental, who will admit otherwise? I'd hate to think Luxco (formerly David Sherman) is knowingly claiming that whiskey distilled at Bernheim was distilled at Stitzel-Weller. Let's just hope they're using up some old labels or something.

As for what's so great about Stitzel-Weller whiskey, well, it's just really good, tasty, well-made whiskey, distinctive, and when the last of it is gone I will miss it. But my life will go on and I will drink again.

Part of it is the wheat recipe. We know Stitzel-Weller made wheated bourbon before Maker's Mark did. We assume someone made wheated bourbon before Stitzel-Weller did, but we don't know that for sure because we don't know who it may have been.

The best source we have who is willing to venture an opinion as to where the wheat recipe used by Stitzel-Weller originated is Sally Van Winkle Campbell and she says it originated with the Stitzel family.

Dave Pickerell, of Maker's Mark, says the Stitzel-Weller still was unique, at least it was until Maker's Mark copied it.

Really good whiskey is mostly a product of kismet. Many things have to fall into place and, seemingly, they all did at Stitzel-Weller.

The point of this ramble is that Stitzel-Weller whiskey is very good and every whiskey lover should try to drink some before it's all gone, but there was exceptional whiskey before Stitzel-Weller and there is other exceptional whiskey available now. I love Stitzel-Weller whiskey as much as the next guy, but I don't want people who are coming to the party now to feel like they got here just as somebody ate the last shrimp.

Nebraska
10-05-2006, 22:08
Wow Chuck, so awfully glad to hear you make that last statement. There are so many exciting offerings coming out. In my mind, it's an exciting time to be discovering bourbon and rye whiskys. I have a deep respect for the offerings and efforts that laid the ground work and I am appreciative when I get a sip of history.

Truth is, we're in the here and now, and the here and now isn't all that bad, I'd even say excellent. The biggest smile on my face at Bardstown was at the 4 Roses breakfast. I asked Jim Rutledge if in about 2010 or so if we could expect a 12yo or 15yo Four Roses offering (I expected a nudge). What I got was an honest answer with a VERY big smile. "I'm already working on that." He may well be the happiest guy in Bardstown right now and rightfully so.

SW is so special because the time was right, the conditions, the people, but that is still going on today in many places with many people, you just have to use your taste buds and ignore the price.

cowdery
10-05-2006, 22:33
The Golden Age of American Whiskey?

It's right now. And by becoming knowledgeable and seeking out and buying the best of what is available now, everyone here is helping to make it happen.

CrispyCritter
10-05-2006, 23:03
Needless to say, I completely missed out on the bourbons of the 1960s and 70s - and even the 80s and 90s, as I didn't really get into spirits until '99. Not only that, but I fell into the single-malt snobbery trap early on, and didn't take bourbon seriously untill a few years ago. :bigeyes: That's not to knock SMS, though - but now it's just one good choice among many.

Although I've had some S-W (ORVW 15 comes to mind), the golden age is now, for me. As much as I've loved what little S-W I've tasted, I'd give BT the nod for "here and now" products (other than Rittenhouse BIB and Wild Turkey).

gr8erdane
10-07-2006, 05:18
I started drinking DN 1843 in the late 70s when it was still made at SW and it was a fine bourbon then. But it came in the tall thin bottle back then. A couple of years ago, I found a couple of old Liter bottles in the old style and picked them up for some SB.com folks at the Gazebo. Quite possibly those were still SW so if you do happen to see some of them, they might be worth picking up. I also have some problem with the current iteration as I find it nothing like I remembered it back then. But I wouldn't call it bad bourbon, just standard fare.