For those of you who know bourbon, and San Francisco, then you know Cask. Recognized as “Artisanal Beverage Purveyors” of the Bay Area, San Francisco’s premier spirit store Cask is the destination for locals and nonnatives alike looking for premier spirits. Specializing in whiskey, specifically domestic whiskey, Cask typically boasts a handful of single barrel picks including, but not limited to, bourbon, rye and single malt. They also showcase an impressive Scotch, Irish, mezcal, and tequila selection along with rum, gin, vodka, liqueurs, amaros, vermouths, bitters, wine, barware and cigars.
In the case of this post, i’ll be reviewing Cask’s single barrel of Old Weller Antique 107 (OW107) which they got in back before the end of 2016. Their barrel lasted I think about a month on the shelf, which is no surprise considering the Weller hype but it also reflects that the spirit buyer(s) and Cask team know what they are doing in terms of barrel selection. I’ll also be comparing this single barrel to Healthy Spirit’s OW107 single barrel.
Old Weller Antique 107, Cask Single Barrel #43
ABV: 53.5% // 107 proof
Mash Bill: Buffalo Trace’s Wheated Mash Bill (undisclosed)
Nose: From the first aroma I’m reminded more of Weller 12 than I am of OW107 – much sweeter and more fruit forward. Sugared strawberries, dried apricots, sour green apples, lemon, rhubarb, dried fruit leather – tons of orchard fruit, all interlaced with iced cinnamon roll, cinnamon dough, sugar donuts, cherry Jolly Rancher, a definite ripe strawberry note and big cotton candy. Quite buttery (think Maker’s 46). The nose is significantly softer than other expressions of Weller 107 where the spice and the alcohol burn can be the most assertive notes. In this single barrel, you do find those pronounced red woody spices that are signature of the OW107 nose, but they are much more balanced. It really reminds me more of Weller 12, but more like a barrel proof Weller 12. The nose rounds out with sweet bread loves and glazed jerky. A very refined and rich nose but in a velvety demeanor. This nose has panache with the perfect balance of sweetness and spice.
Palate: Immediate, classic red wood/woody and cinnamon spices that define OW107 on the tip of your tongue but this expression shows much more dried fruit than usual, with those spices. These signature spices of cinnamon and clove climax almost mid palate. Lots of red cherry notes start here and turn medicinal and cough syrupy…syrupy, in fact, is the best way to describe this palate however it maintains a nice dryness also that creates a very harmonious balance in texture. Big bold black pepper notes cut through the dryness. Maple syrup, wheat, orange rind and the alcoholic bite thats is often associated with OW107 comes in the from of paint thinner, sweeter and not astringent at all. Caramel, smoke, like brush on fire and a bitter note close the ending out. Overall, this barrel takes Weller 107’s potential and outdoes even that. This single barrel displays near perfect balance between sweetness and spice with the perfect amount of bitterness. Everything you love about OW107 is in this bottle but with far more finesse and a fervent sense of balance.
Finish: Your mouth almost feels sticky from the sweetness as the finish sets in. Long, sweet and, interestingly enough for OW107, a subtley spicy finish – the spice is definitely present, but its not so in your face and is kept in check with the sweeter notes. The lightest of smoke, gooey Demerara sugars, and crushed cinnamon stick. Nougat and buttery dough. Hints of burnt sugar and smoking wood, like from a BBQ pit. Spice now lingers to no more than a hum but it makes sure you don’t forget you were just sipping none other than OW107. Lastly, red cherry from the palate shows up in both the medicinal and Claey’s Hard Candy drop sense.
Bourbon and House Rating: 92
Before its release, Cask’s OW107 single barrel was met with much anticipation, and for good reason: single barrel selections that come out of Cask carry with them discernible differences and unique nuances that bourbon lovers yearn for, and this selection is a perfect example of that. This is my favorite single barrel pick of bourbon I’ve ever had. I feel I got more than my moneys worth with this bottle, which I think captured something very special not only in respect to Weller bourbons but also because this expression of OW107 truly shows what a careful selection can get you with a Single Barrel Select bourbon. Ive had my share of barrel picks across the bourbon spectrum, ranging from noticeably different but not to my liking, to picks that I felt had nothing to offer more than the standard entry level expression. Cask’s single barrel, in my opinion, crossed the boundaries of what OW107 is, by balancing the sometimes rather brash elements of spice and astringent alcoholic notes with more baking spices and sweet sugars – pushing this expression into a sweeter realm, but at the same time highlighting the notes and aspects that make the Weller bourbons truly classic.
I gave Cask’s OW107 a 92 and here is why: Cask picked a barrel of Weller that shows an abundance of complexity and depth through balance that isn’t normally there in the standard OW107. Everything just worked really, really well. The richness of spice and the depth of sweetness worked harmoniously and as a result what you have is a very well rounded classic high proof wheater.
Battle of the Bay – Old Weller Antique 107 Single Barrel: Cask vs Healthy Spirits
In my review of Healthy Spirit’s OW107 single barrel, I gave it an 88.5 rating. Healthy Spirit’s single barrel was a cut above the standard OW107, boasting a greater level of sweetness but not nearly what Cask’s barrel yielded which was much more velvety in texture – especially in context to Weller 12. Also their wasn’t nearly the level of dried fruit in Healthy Spirit’s that I found in Cask’s pick. I feel Healthy Spirit’s pick was a little closer to the “classic”, standard OW107 profile. Cask’s pick on the other hand was a more well rounded and balanced bourbon. My suspicion in what separated these two barrels from each other is a (relatively) significant age difference, possibly in the range of 1-2 years. Judging from profile differences i’d say Cask’s barrel was older than Healthy Spirit’s, however I could be wrong and maybe Cask just got the Weller honey barrel of a lifetime.
By no small margin, Cask’s OW107 is definitely the winner in this battle of Bay Area bourbons. I’d like to personally thank Vince for saving me this bottle and Elijah for the friendly help and conversation every time I’m in.