Its late Fall, and I’m sitting here in the big leather chair, mentally preparing for the coming holiday, sipping a delightful expression of bourbon, a 2005 Weller 12yr. It’s a good pour for thinking back on some of my favorite memories, the simple fall days spent driving around the Kentucky/Indiana countryside. There are still a few leaves left on the trees, dangling from the barren branches, they loft out into the air and drift down into the spring fed creeks, making their way to the big rivers that are in full southern retreat.
Man, this old Weller 12 takes me back. There is a particular bridge over the White River, a big lacy iron structure; all function with a little bit of charming 19th century form sprinkled in. My great-great grandfathers built it, maintained it, used it. Cars hadn’t even been invented yet. The bridge was as utilitarian as it was artistic. For me it was always the bridge between the present and the past. The span that must be traveled to get from Indiana to Kentucky. The old world meeting the new. We looked forward to seeing it, letting it do its job, getting us safely from one side of the river to the other. It was like a member of the family.
The old bridge is closed now, derelict and rusty, barricaded on both ends, standing like a lonely sentinel. Still, it’s beautiful by itself against the fall sky. Occasionally Dad will give me a call just to let me know he drove past the old river bridge, telling me that it’s still there, still standing strong, spanning the expanse of water and time when so much of the other infrastructure that replaced it is already crumbling….poorly engineered excuses, passed off as adequate replacements. You can still walk across it, and in that way it can still be enjoyed, at least for the time it has left. When I am home, I make that walk, and savor the moments.
I can’t tell you much about this pour that you don’t know by now. It’s a transition bottle, generally considered to be Stitzel-Weller stock, which means it’s everything bourbon is supposed to be. Maybe the 2005 isn’t the most perfect iteration of Stitzel-Weller juice ever created, but it’s still damn good.
The nose is filled with perky oak that slinks up and out of the glass like a genie coming out of a lamp. Give it a few good pulls. The creamy, buttery goodness wrapped around the flavor that’s packed with toasty caramel and charred oak. The rich texture that coats the palate. The mild finish that I can only describe as “easy”. It’s all there.
I’m still getting acquainted with Stitzel-Weller, but I know enough to appreciate it for everything it is, and especially everything it isn’t.
It’s simple, and elegant. Straight up bourbon; no games. No deciphering the unnecessary myriads of fruits, sweets, candies, etc. No digging through layer upon layer of complex mystery flavors. No toe-curling pepper. No horseshit aging techniques. No punk-rock-vampires or tattooed pin-up girls on the label. No clever Swedish packaging. No corporate marketing. It takes everything that’s good and true about bourbon, strips out the excess to the bare bones, and leaves you with everything you really need. That’s what happens when a distillery puts the emphasis on quality and love of the craft. It’s a true rarity now.
Ah yes, the Weller 12. It’s perfect for this moment, for reflecting on years gone by. When you think about it, it’s got a lot in common with my old iron river bridge. It’s still in existence, such that it can be enjoyed, but it’s time is fleeting. It’s been replaced by the newer version that does the job, but cannot hold a candle to the one it replaces. And when it’s gone, it’s gone……