Several whiskey-enthusiast blogs and web sites are reporting that Weller Antique, a wheated bourbon produced by Sazerac at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, is being discontinued. The ostensible source is none other than Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Master Distiller, speaking at a tasting event in Dallas, Texas.
Two different individuals who attended the event have written that he cited limited amounts of wheated bourbon barrel stock as the reason. As reported, his exact words were, "Weller Antique is going away."
So your humble correspondent asked the Buffalo Trace PR department about the reported incident. Through them, Mr. Wheatley denied making the statement. Both he and the PR department assert that, in fact, Weller Antique is not going away and there are no changes to the Weller line underway.
The two witnesses are knowledgeable, veteran whiskey enthusiasts. There appears to be no reason to doubt them, nor to doubt the denials by Mr. Wheatley and the official spokespeople at Buffalo Trace. How to explain the discrepancy? Many possibilities suggest themselves. Most fall well short of the conspiracy and duplicity suggested by some members of the commentariat.
One would think that the denial is enough, everyone assumes there was some kind of misunderstanding, now cleared up, end of story. But that's not how it works among people afflicted with whiskirexia nervosa, a condition whose principal symptom is an unreasonable belief that no matter how many bottles of whiskey you already have, there is one more you desperately need. Paranoia is a typical reaction to conflicting stimuli.
One problem with the notion of Weller Antique being discontinued is that there is no reason to do it, nothing to be gained by it. Buffalo Trace only has two lines of wheated bourbon, Weller and Van Winkle. Van Winkle is extremely popular and profitable, but it's also tiny and intends to stay that way. They can make appropriate increases to Van Winkle production without robbing Weller. So why would they discontinue Antique?
One theory is that they are going to push all wheated bourbon production into Weller Special Reserve, which conveniently lost its 7-year-old age statement not long ago. By using younger whiskey and diverting whiskey from Antique, they can produce a lot more Weller Special Reserve, cheaper and thus more profitably. Antique was always just the high-proof version of Special Reserve, after all, 53.5% ABV instead of 45% ABV.
It's not a good theory, necessarily, just one that rationalizes the conclusion.
The Weller line, which also includes Weller Special Reserve and Weller 12, may not be big where you are but it's huge in Texas and everyone knows you don't get between a Texan and his or her bourbon. It's not healthy.