The William Larue Weller Bourbon history is both interesting and a little bit convoluted. William Larue Weller was born in 1825 to a German immigrant family with a farming and distilling background. In 1848, W.L. Weller and his brother opened a whiskey trading and bottling company called William Larue Weller & Brother. They were whiskey wholesalers but not distillers at this point.
It is believed that it was in 1849 that Weller created a mashbill using wheat instead of rye, but the unusual thing is that he was not a distiller yet, so it must have been a recipe that they had made for them.
By the 1870s the business became known as William Larue Weller & Sons. In 1893 he hired a new sales representative who eventually became an American bourbon icon… Julian Van Winkle, aka “Pappy” Van Winkle.
In 1896 Weller retired, so Van Winkle and another sales representative named Alex T. Farnsley bought out his shares and gained control of the company. Most of the whiskey they sold was produced by A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery.
After Prohibition ended in 1933, the W.L. Weller company and the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery officially merged into on company called the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. This is believed to be when a wheated bourbon was first produced in bulk under the brands Old Fitzgerald and Old Weller.
In 1972 the company was sold to Norton-Simon and the name was changed to the Old Fitzgerald Distillery. Several acquisitions later the giant beverage company Diageo purchased it and then closed it in 1992.
In 1999 Buffalo Trace purchased the Weller brands and today, the legacy of William Larue Weller continues to be honored with award-winning wheated bourbons including his namesake William Larue Weller, Weller 107 Antique, Weller 12 Year, and Weller Special Reserve.
William Larue Weller Releases and Proofs