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William Larue Weller
By Ethan Kelley
Founded in 1849, William L. Weller was the product of generations of distillers. Well trained and ready for anything, Weller kept the wholesale business in the family, first with his brothers, then his sons. The brand prospered; by 1893, Weller hired a new salesman, Julian Van Winkle, better known as ‘Pappy.’ In 1899 William Weller passed away, and his eldest son George took the reins. It was in 1908 when Pappy and a colleague bought the distillery, keeping George Weller on as president.
At the start of prohibition, the new owners merged with Arthur Stitzel and formed a new company called Stitzel – Weller. Together they were able to survive the ravages of prohibition by selling medical-grade alcohol. Eventually, once the Noble Experiment failed, the distillery officially opened on Derby Day in 1935. Stitzel – Weller, using a wheated recipe, produced some of the finest bourbons at the time. Wheated bourbons use wheat instead of rye as the secondary grain, creating a softer style tipple, and Weller remains one of the best examples of the style.
Weller is now owned and produced at the famed Buffalo Trace distillery and has earned a place in the pantheon of the Antique Collection, which also includes George T. Stagg, Sazerac, Thomas H. Handy and Eagle Rare. The W.L. Weller recipe and the legend continues to this day, and these carrel proof bourbons are still highly desirable, and even harder to get.