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Weller Full Proof Single Barrel Bourbon (Noblesville Indiana Costco, 2023) Review

Weller Full Proof Single Barrel Bourbon (Noblesville Indiana Costco, 2023) Review

This is a review about the power and lunacy that a single barrel pick of Weller Full Proof bourbon can have over the masses. But before I begin, I have a question for you. What is the difference between an enthusiast and a tater? I’ll give you the answer towards the end of the review to see if you get it correctly.

Noblesville, Indiana – a suburb of Indianapolis – had recently opened a brand new Costco a week or so before Thanksgiving. As most stores typically do, they will have specials intended to draw new members in. One of the “incentives” was that they would be getting an entire single barrel of Weller Full Proof all to themselves. And as things like this often go, there’s an insider who informs his buddy who then informs his buddy and so on. I learned about the drop a few days before it was supposed to happen – which was Monday, November 27th.

Sure enough, there stood a line of 50 middle aged men that morning shortly before the doors opened. When they did, you’d think they had all previously qualified for the Olympic Speed Walking. The manager greeted us with disappointing news that the shipment had not come in yet and he didn’t know when it would. The crowd sulked as they walked out.

Over the next 4 days, the same scene would play out. A crowd would gather at the front door well before they opened in the chance to get a bottle of Weller Full Proof. And each day they were turned away. But Costco’s inventory system is set up to where it is either viewable to the public OR any employee can look up any item. I’m not quite sure what the case was, but the crowd knew that on Friday, December 1st that 162 bottles of Weller Full Proof had arrived.

The crowd of taters had swelled to almost twice the size that it was on Monday. Their frenzied appearance was certainly enough to overwhelm even the toughest of managers. But on that fateful day, the manager on duty firmly stated that she was not going to release any of the bottles until the crowd dispersed. What happened next was a standoff between the crowd and the manager. Many refused to leave. Some staged a “sit in” in the aisles, demanding the manager release the bottles. There were many phone calls made to Costco’s corporate office, explaining the situation. Allegedly, Corporate called down to regional offices to tell them to put them all out, but the regional offices rebuffed Corporate and told the store they were okay with releasing only a few at a time.

At the same time, many of the taters who were protesting in the aisles were giving active updates on their status on the local whiskey Facebook groups. This started to make the situation look much more out of control than it probably was, but it did illustrate the heart of the problem: the Noblesville Costco team was ill-prepared for the fortitude that these starchy taters had. Management relented moments before the situation devolved into “Squid Game: Noblesville Edition” and passed out the bottles. The aisles slowly began to unclog. The taters had their shiny blue prize.

“Very Fine People on Both Sides”

I’m torn on my opinion of the two sides that day. On one hand, you have grown men who were acting like toddlers that weren’t getting their way. On the other side stood a singular manager whose only job is to ensure that as much inventory is being moved as fast as possible during business hours. The Costco price model already dictates the maximum amount of profit that can be made on any product in the store, so raising the price above secondary wasn’t something they could do. Just what was the manager’s motivation behind trying to slow-drip a product like Weller and not – say – a 60 pack of underwear? The customers are already there so just get them out of there as quickly as you can.

In the enthusiast (and tater) community, we already know that stores that hold allocated bottles back are doing it because they have a group of customers they are going to reward with it – big spenders, frequent patrons and close friends. But Costco doesn’t bind itself to that kind of system. That means that the only reason anything would get held back is to enrich the employee or manager who is in charge of setting out the inventory. Was that the case that fateful day at Costco? We may never know, but it feels like it.

The situation dragged on until eventually the manager caved. The aisle-sitters were awarded for their public protest. After they left, the managers took the remaining bottles and began to push it on unassuming patrons as they came through the front door telling them “buy this bottle, trust us, you’re going to want it.” Hearing this ultimately persuaded me to believe that the intention of the manager that day was not in the best interest of the customers. Why resist selling bottles to the customers who really wanted it and then try to conduct a fire sale to those who didn’t even know what the bottle was later on? It seemed as if the manager wanted to try and prove something, but I don’t know what.

A word about Weller Full Proof

Weller Full Proof launched in 2019 to the joy of many enthusiasts who wanted a higher proofed Weller. It became instantly allocated and there’s never enough of it. Surprisingly, after the initial buying craze and inflation of bourbon prices settled in mid-2022, the secondary value of Weller Full Proof has dropped. Many enthusiasts have observed few differences between it and Weller Antique single barrels, which has prompted the hype to mostly fade. Most bottles of WFP are now flipped on the secondary or traded for better bottles. It’s basically turned into a currency among taters rather than a liquid to consume.

So how does this Weller taste? Let’s find out. I sampled it neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose smells like most Weller should with notes of cherries and chocolate. There’s even a little orange peel in the mix. A nice level of cinnamon baking spice is followed by a moderate amount of oak. Caramel sweetness hugs each note with the right amount of sweetness.

Palate: The mouthfeel is fairly rich while the heat level is every bit of the 114 proof that the label says it is. This has a decent amount of sting thanks to the cinnamon stick and a bit of ground peppercorn spice. The spice can’t overwhelm the sweetness from the caramel I’m picking up. It leans more towards a Tootsie Roll flavor when it combines with the chocolate. Regardless, the cherry and citrus notes are a little more subdued than I normally find them, but still present. It’s the chocolate and oak that are the stars here. So in that regard, this tastes a bit older than the 6 to 7 years this probably sat in a barrel. This is a flavorful sipper, but not particularly complex. It does everything that a wheated Buffalo Trace bourbon should do.

Finish: The tannins for this definitely hang around for a while when the sip is done. Those oak and chocolate notes from the tongue just don’t stop. The cinnamon spice smolders in the background. Caramel continues to bring the sweetness and some vanilla pops up at the end.

Score: 8/10

This pick of Weller Full Proof does so many things right that it’s hard to find something it did wrong. I would normally comment more when a bourbon is powerful without being complex, but I’ve come to expect this exact profile in every Buffalo Trace wheated bourbon I’ve tried – to include William Larue Weller. I don’t think it’ll change anytime soon, so if you like it, you’ve pretty much found your “Forever Bourbon.” Sucks about the availability though.

Final Thoughts

Would I have went to the lengths that the taters did to get their hands on a bottle like this? No. I would have been one of those people who just left the store and not returned. It’s amazing what people will do for a bottle from Buffalo Trace though. That must be why there is a line every day at the distillery in Kentucky. People just can’t get enough of their products, so they do crazy things for it.

But there needs to be some give and take from both sides in this never-ending bourbon war. Recognize when you’ve lost the battle and live to fight another day. As for the manager at Costco, she’s probably going to divert any future allocated bottles to another store to not have to deal with the crowds anymore. To the people that took a stand wouldn’t leave until they got their bottle, they weren’t there to waste their time. The only time they were going to waste is if they left empty-handed when the bottles were already there being held back by a gatekeeper.

Both sides need to realize that fighting can sometimes be futile. But for everyone that got a bottle that day, I sincerely hope you open it up and enjoy it with friends because that is what separates the enthusiasts from the taters. And because of the actions of everyone that day, there’s probably not going to be too many more Weller Full Proof bottles coming through the Costco at Noblesville, Indiana anymore.

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Evan W in NJ

Tuesday 12th of December 2023

I honestly don't know why distributors don't make more stores use a waiting list model. It's probably the best way to get product in the widest group of hands that actually appreciate it. Lotteries are useful also


Sunday 10th of December 2023

There are other reasons to hold back release other than the manager enriching themselves.

It's to discourage the leak of insider info that ensures that a casual customer will never have a chance to buy.

If I was the manager, I would hold release for this reason. You don't want to reward people with insider info for forming lines and storming the isles at store open. Instead, trickle bottles randomly during store hours to attempt to get product into the hands of regular customers.

Do you want your store known as a place where the average Joe never has a chance, or a place where average Joe might just get lucky while going shopping with his family?

The people who stand on line don't have as much value to the store as they think. The product will obviously sell out nearly instantly without them. They're more of a nuisance than a benefit to the store. I say this as someone who has stood in a few lines in the past.

Really great story here and great writing. Thanks for the review.


Sunday 10th of December 2023

That’s the current situation in the bourbon industry. Taters have overrun the market. Enthusiasts can read reviews, watch YouTubers gush, having received media samples and know those items will NEVER be available at their local store. The distillers aggravate the situation by raising their prices to secondary market levels. What not many remember is that bourbon was a BUST market not that long ago. Secondary prices are already dropping. When regular customers can’t afford or won’t pay inflated prices they explore other options. Tequila and Rum are enjoying growth as is Gin. Those sitting on $1K bottles of BTAC, good luck. Look at the Craft beer market. The big -layers (Budweiser, Coors) bought out many and ruined them with corporate greed. Now many innovative breweries are gone.

Samuel Overbay

Sunday 10th of December 2023

Actually they had the WFP bottles on Wednesday delivered (words out of Taynins mouth) and I spoke with Taynin the GM herself and explained to her that this is bad business. I spoke with her on the phone and she told me how her husband is a huge Bourbon enthusiast and how he has every bottle know to man. (Very surprised she told me that and I wonder why he does). She also caved and told me to come up Friday morning and she would secretly sell me a bottle so I did and she personally walked me out with a bottle while everyone else was standing by the liquor aisle. I have the receipt to prove it. Fort Wayne GM Kevin is doing the same thing. Putting out allocated bourbons when his buddy’s happen to be in the store.

Mike & Mike

Sunday 10th of December 2023

I figured this is the case which is why I highlighted the fact that managers don't sequester bourbon unless they are somehow enriching themselves. In this case, it's not always for financial gain, but for quid pro quo or clout in the community. It's pretty scummy if you ask me.