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  1. #1
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    Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??

    After being introduced to some early/mid-80's Stitzel & Weller made old Fitz by the Bourbon Brothers (thanks Mark and Greg) it is clear that something special was in place to make whiskey that is/was so unique in any number of ways. So what is it that makes the Stitzel & Weller so unique..is it the grain they had access to, something unique about the still, the recipe, barrels that were different in some way, the special touch of the master distiller, location of the aging barns, ????

    So what is it that made Stitzel & Weller unique among it's peers?
    "The most futile and disastrous day seems well spent when it is reviewed through the blue, fragrant smoke of a Havana Cigar"

  2. #2
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    Re: Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??

    I don't know the answer, but I do know that the Weller Antique being made by Buffalo Trace is great, but the old bottle from the 80s my father opened up two years ago was better.

  3. #3
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    Re: Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??

    Quote Originally Posted by cigarnv View Post
    After being introduced to some early/mid-80's Stitzel & Weller made old Fitz by the Bourbon Brothers (thanks Mark and Greg) it is clear that something special was in place to make whiskey that is/was so unique in any number of ways. So what is it that makes the Stitzel & Weller so unique..is it the grain they had access to, something unique about the still, the recipe, barrels that were different in some way, the special touch of the master distiller, location of the aging barns, ????

    So what is it that made Stitzel & Weller unique among it's peers?

    IMO, there are hundreds of factors that guide a bourbon to its flavor profile...maybe even more. Each one pushes or detracts the product in its direction to finality. What the SW facility created can't ever be recreated by another facitlity, because no one will ever be able to recreate all the minor factors that were available to SW back then(pre 1972). They made many choices that were not cost effective to the bottom line. Remember they made bourbon at a loss...if necessary. Find a CEO who will admit to that these days.

    In short, they did things with love and care. It really showed in the final product.
    ______________________________

    Jeff Mo.

  4. #4
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    Re: Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??

    I'd like to add to Jeff's comments.

    Part of S-W's uniqueness was the dedication to quality put in place by Pappy Van Winkle. For instance, he used higher quality barrels made in such a way as to increase the bourbon's exposure to the wood. So part of the answer is a set of procedures and priorities that presumably anyone similarly motivated could duplicate, or at least mimic given enough experience, difficult though that may be. Unfortunately, that kind of dedication is rare today.

    Then, of course, there's the recipe and yeast. Both are industrial secrets carefully guarded. But again, something that presumably could be duplicated if someone got ahold of that recipe and a sample of the yeast.

    But there's more to it than that. Each distillery has a unique flavor profile that is a function of all the individual parts, the micro-chemistry if you will. These are matters of accident: a still was made one way as a result of the manufacturing process, imperfections or slight variations that weren't planned but nevertheless contribute to the final product. (It's the same thing with wine: the micro-changes in climate, harvesting methods and so on all contribute to the final product making the difference between a good and an exceptional vintage.) Overhaul the column still and the flavor unavoidably changes. This means that flavor changes over time even for a single distillery.

    Of course, it's not just mechanical imponderables that determine the end product. Part of it is the unique "genius" of the master distiller. What the Van Winkles picked out and blended is going to be different than someone else.

    Add all of this up and you get something that may be utterly unique and probably unrepeatable.

    Herein lies the origin of our collective insanity.
    ē ē ē
    Mark

    I love him whose soul squanders itself, who wants no thanks...for he always gives away and does not want to preserve himself.
    -Nietzsche


  5. #5
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    I wonder this exact same thing so often. I've heard stories like low distillation and barrel entry proof, specialized cooperage and high wheat mashbill, etc, but I've never been able to verify any of them

  6. #6
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    Re: Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??

    I agree that many factors influenced the S-W taste profile. Whatever the combination, there will never be a bourbon like Stitzel-Weller again. Such a pity. Drink 'em if you got 'em.
    Joe
    Colonel Joseph B. "Bourbon Joe" Koch

    "Bourbon.....It's cheaper than therapy!!"

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??

    The still design was unusual, and copied by Maker's Mark, but it can never be narrowed down to any one thing. Other key factors were low distillation and entry proof, and the wheated recipe.

  8. #8

    Re: Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??

    Iíve tasted a number of Stitzel-Weller whiskeys; for example, a bottled-in-bond Very Very Old Fitzgerald 12 year old, a 16 year old Van Winkle Family Reserve, and the more recent Pappy bottles. They were certainly very good (the 16 year old was my favorite). But I question the notion that Stitzel-Weller is a notch above current production, or even significantly different, given the normal range of taste profiles in the bourbon industry.

    As we all know, each distillery has a characteristic taste profile (or profiles) that are fascinating to compare. And these differences surely result from myriad variables in the distillation and aging processes. But how might one argue (for example) that Wild Turkey bourbons are superior to those from Buffalo Trace? Or vice versa? It is all a matter of personal taste, of course. Just as some peopleís personal taste might favor Stitzel-Weller bourbons over those of Buffalo Trace. Or Wild Turkey. Or Coke over Pepsi.

    Most of the commotion about Stitzel-Weller, I am convinced, is nostalgia coupled with scarcity. Just like the Hirsch (aka Michter) bourbons from Pennsylvania. Iíve tried these, too. Again, good stuff, but not obviously superior to, or wildly different from, current production. At least to my taste. Also, was the famous Pappy Van Winkle more concerned about quality than current distillers like Jimmy Russell or Harlen Wheatley? Was Van Winkle more of a genius? I doubt it. But it is always fun to talk nostalgically about the good old days when men were men, dogs were dogs, and distillers took a cost-be-damned attitude to their whiskeys. But the good old days, I suspect, were no better than the present, and they were generally worse.

    I have occasionally had the experience of trying a bourbon (or other spirit) bottled long ago. Frequently I have found that the older bottle tastes better. The best example in my experience was the pre-Prohibition bourbon offered by Mike Veach at a bourbon tasting. I was astonished by how good the old bourbon was. Mike speculated that the difference might be low barrel entry proof. But I wonder if time spent in the bottle does not sometimes improve a spirit, conventional wisdom notwithstanding? If so, then this effect might also explain claims on this forum that older Makerís Mark tastes better. Even though folks at Makerís Mark swear it is the same stuff down through the years.

    So Iím looking forward someday to comparing two Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project bottles with different barrel entry proofs (105 vs. 125). Then Iíll know if barrel entry proof makes a big difference, as Mike Veach suggests. (Chuck mentions the same thing in his book.) If barrel entry proof does not matter, then Iíll guess that age in the bottle likely improves a spirit. Sometimes at least. If barrel entry proof does make a big difference, then I hope distillers will provide more low entry proof whiskeys to the market. Just as, according to Chuckís book, they did before Prohibition.

    Has anyone already made the barrel entry proof comparison with BT Single Oak Project bottles? The third release offers this opportunity.

  9. #9
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    Re: Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??

    I also noticed that older bottlings I've had the opportunity to taste share a distinct roundness and fruitiness to them that just doesn't exist in currently produced offerings. This includes an OC7BiB from the 80's, Weller Centennial, a '84 FC7/103, '88 DSPKY16 OFBiB, etc

  10. #10
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    Re: Stitzel & Weller.... Why is it special??

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Troland View Post


    But I wonder if time spent in the bottle does not sometimes improve a spirit, conventional wisdom notwithstanding? .

    I am becoming more are more of a beliver that is a factor....
    Cheers,

    Scott

    Reality is an illusion created by a lack of alcohol.

 

 

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