W.L. Weller 12 Year Old

Mark Twain said that travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. When June 8 strikes, it will have been two years since we lost Anthony Bourdain. He is a man I owe much of my curious mind to. He sparked my fascination for traveling, food and eventually alcohol.

It is no secret that I look up to him. You can see a lot of his quotes scattered all over my reviews. You could say that some of my reviews have also been inspired by some of his words. As someone who became one of the most famous and respected food advocates, I wonder what he would be telling us now regarding the Food & Beveridge industry being in danger?

Yes, Tony is mainly known for featuring food, but he eventually used it to ease us into the different kinds of cultures, and global issues he was interested in. He showed the world that every dish and drink has a story. That food isn’t just food. One of his most memorable episodes was filmed in El Bulli. I believe that really gave him more credit for helping chefs and food gain better recognition. If you haven’t seen it, or haven’t seen it in a long time, it’ll show you that cooking can also be magical. He wasn’t very picky with alcohol. But he certainly enjoyed drinking. He could also get fancy, as he is partially infamous for making Pappy more well known in the early 2010s. Through him, I first heard of Pappy when I saw his The Layover: Seattle episode. Because Pappy is so damn hard to get and so expensive these days, I’ll review a Weller 12 instead. It’s all currently just one recipe after all.

Growing up in a stereotypical conservative Asian environment, didn’t really encourage curiosity. Asking questions would bring about the equivalent of martial law. It’s safe to say how he approached life, is similar to how I slowly learned to approach life. He was not afraid to ask questions in his shows. He wasn’t afraid of being or sounding wrong. While he didn’t regularly directly tell his fans to do this and that, but watching his shows regularly, I think, allowed me to unconsciously pick up some of his habits. Hence my reluctance to take the word of the big brands as the whole truth. I’m not saying they’re lying, but they’re not being entirely honest as well. Although, there are some who companies really love pushing their self-serving narratives to the point, they’re just spouting bullshit. No terroir in spirits, anyone?

Watching the episodes, I learned that eating and drinking is an adventure. Something doesn’t need to be expensive to be good. Expensive doesn’t automatically make something good. He absolutely loved street food. Cheap food, like Vietnamese street food, can be so damn good. He helped more people recognize that there’s usually more effort and talent going into making a tasty dish made with offcuts and other unwanted ingredients in the old days. I mean, it’s easier to make a good meal out of a rib eye steak, than making a good meal out of oxtail. Sort of like going from a whisky drinker to venturing out to cheaper yet more interesting spirits like rum and Mezcal. Older doesn’t always mean better. A usually unaged spirit like Mezcal has nothing to hide behind, because there’s no added flavor or aging to cover the faults. Just because it’s more prestigious does it mean it’s automatically better? Are you eating/drinking with your ego or with your senses?

Everyone has their own idols to chase. As someone who was a rare and great balance of wit, eloquence, honesty and wisdom, I’d say he is my idol in the form of a unicorn. I guess my writing for Malt, is my attempt to reach him. But try as I might, even though he is unlikely to make anymore progress, I know I will never catch up to him. For now, I’ll have to collect as much hair that has fallen from that tail to make calligraphy brush out of it.

W.L. Weller 12 year old – review

Color: Cinnamon.

On the nose: Scents of muscovado sugar and cinnamon slightly enveloped by a not unpleasant soapy scent and leather. These are followed by an assortment of nuts with skin with freshly squeezed orange peels. There are undertones of cherry, red pepper and marzipan hiding behind the oak and astringent sweetness. Surprising that the vanilla here does not jump out at me.

In the mouth: Muscovado sugar, oak, cinnamon, orange peels and hints of lasting undertones of brandied cherries, marzipan. There’s a follow up taste of astringent woody not that makes me think of Japanese temples. It gives way to quick rushes of cloves, rosemary and thyme.


Aside from being of the same recipe as Pappy, I can see why people make a fuss about this. A very enjoyable yet interesting whisky. Because there’s still not too much wheated bourbon in the market, the other ones aren’t as widely distributed yet also, this is a really different experience from the regular bourbons with rye in the mash.

I still prefer the Old Weller Antique 107, especially the one with the 7-year age statement. Aside from being cheaper and easier to find, there’s a better balance between the oak influence and the distillate. I would have given this a score of 7. But because we factor in the price, I’m giving this a deduction of 1 point. I bought this for $100 on the secondary market when I was in LA, sometime in 2016.

Score: 6/10


John is a cocktail and spirits enthusiast born and raised in Manila. His interest started with single malts in 2012, before he moved into rum and mezcal in search of malterntaitves – and a passion for travel then helped build his drinks collection.

  1. Welsh Toro says:

    An enjoyable review received by a long time supporter of Anthony Bourdain. You tick a box for Mark Twain as well but if we’re going to get brainy let’s not forget Immanuel Kant thought travel was a distraction from reading and understanding a place in depth. I confess I don’t agree with him. I first travelled abroad in 1979 when I was 10 years old. My parents drove me and my younger brother through France into northern Italy for a few weeks. I enjoyed everything about it. The great bread, the garlic, the seafood. I even ate snails. They let me try wine and, to the shock of the bartenders, pernot mixed with water or coke because it tasted like aniseed. The following year we went to the south of Italy where we ate fish, just caught with fresh herbs followed by delicious melons. We did the same thing in Catalonia in 1982. Those journeys were the most important things in the shaping of my life. Food, drink, art and architecture and beautiful weather that I could never experience in the U.K and I continue to dream and crave it. My horizons were forever expanded. Okay – Weller 12. Bought two bottles from a genuine U.K retailer that didn’t do secondary and sold them to me for £35 each which is what he thought they were worth. A very nice whiskey and I think that £35 is about right in old money. I’d go to £45 but that’s it. I’m not paying huge dollars for bourbon. Cheers John. WT

    1. John says:

      Thanks for the comment, WT. I’ll confess I’m not familiar with Immanuel Kant. I shall look him up!

      Your childhood trip to Italy and France sounds like it would be the envy of people after hearing of it. I can’t relate as I’ve never been to the EU but it’s on the bucket list.

      Not paying huge dollars for bourbon… ha! A lesson I wish I partly wish I learned earlier but I partly don’t regret as well.

      Cheers, WT.

  2. AO says:


    It’s way too early o’clock in the morning on the East coast, but your article awakened my senses today like the best cup of coffee. I’ll admit, I was really not expecting an article intended to review whiskey to move me to tears. The fact that it’s about a “unicorn” of sorts makes me so happy because it means that many will come to read about that ego drinker and wind up with something that’s much more complex than that. Thank you for the great writing. Be well.

    1. John says:

      Wow, Ao. I never expected this to move someone to tears but thank you for the wonderful comment. It’s sad that Tony is such a rare type of person. I wish he were still around

      1. John says:

        Hi Dael,

        In an episode of Parts Unknown “Tony’s Effect” or something like that, one of his producers said you may not have known him but felt like he would side with you. He gave off that kind of feeling.


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