Posts from the ‘Willett’ Category

Phil’s Favorite Rye

Rye is making a huge comeback, and is quickly regaining its prominence as one of the very best spirits around.  It is the shining star of many classic cocktails, works great on the rocks on a sunny summer day, and a good rye sips just fine straight up and neat.  Some of the following ryes are made exclusively of rye grain, while others have only the 51% rye necessary to make a straight rye.  Like many of the other posts in this series, these whiskeys are based solely on the flavor and quality of the whiskey, not on the price or availability.  Without further ado, the nominees for my favorite rye whiskey:

Name: Jefferson’s 25 Year Presidential Select

Distillery: Not Stated (Most likely Alberta Distillers)

Batch: 1

Age: 25 Years

Proof: 86 (43% abv)

Price: $150-175/750ml

Notes: This whiskey most likely comes from Alberta Distillers’ 100% rye mashbill, but since I cannot confirm this, I have put this one into the rye category as opposed to the Canadian whisky category.  There is something magical that can occur to rye whiskies after they’ve spent a long time in the barrel.  All that brash rye spice gets tamed by the wood into something truly special.  Sipping one such whiskey is like listening to an elderly person who was a firebrand in their youth talk about their life story.  This is a rich, sophisticated whiskey with layers upon layers of old wood, maple fudge, and cinnamon spice.  Nosing this whiskey is pure heaven.  Unfortunately, this whiskey is released in very small batches, and is very hard to come by.  And, to boot, with the heightened popularity of rye whiskey, the price is only going up on this gem.

Name: Masterson’s 10 Year

Distillery: Alberta Distillers

Batch: 005

Age: 10 Years

Proof: 90 (45% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: This whiskey could just as easily be categorized as Canadian, but since I usually see it in the rye section, I have included it here.  This is one of several Alberta Distillers 10 year-old rye whiskeys sourced out to other bottlers.  Of those that I have had, this one is one of my favorites.  It provides great balance between spicy and sweet notes, while also mixing in notes of mint, pipe tobacco, and drying oak.  This is not a cheap dram, but it is a consistently good, well-aged rye whiskey.

Name: Sazerac 18 Year

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Batch: 2012

Age: 18 Years

Proof: 90 (45% abv)

Price: $80-90/750ml

Notes: Like many of the Antique Collection whiskeys, there have been many great Sazerac 18 releases.  I’ve simply chosen the one I enjoyed the most.  As I said above, something magical happens with old ryes, and this is no exception.  This whiskey unloads a full complement of rich oak, baking spices, and luscious vanilla cream.  This is a complex dream of a whiskey from start to finish.  Like other Antique Collection whiskeys, this is released once a year, and is often difficult to come by.  When found on the secondary market, this one tends to command a very hefty price tag, but it comes awfully close to being worth every penny.

Name: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Batch: 2012

Age: 6 Years

Proof: 132.4 (66.2% abv)

Price: $80-90/750ml

Notes: Like the Sazerac 18, there have been many brilliant Handy releases.  This is a young, brash, exhilarating whiskey that packs a rye punch like few others.  Drinking this whiskey is an experience akin to chewing on a hot cinnamon candy that had been dredged in vanilla frosting.  The rye spices are in full force here, more so than in older ryes, but there is enough sweetness to bring complexity and body to it.  Few whiskeys will warm you better on a cold night.  Like the Sazerac above, it’s a tough find nowadays and usually ends up being priced awfully high when floating around the secondary market.

Name: Willett Family Estate Single Barrel

Distillery: Midwest Grain Products

Batch: Barrel #148

Age: 6 Years

Proof: 114.6 (55.8% abv)

Price: $50-60/750ml

Notes: There have been many memorable MGP ryes bottled under the Willett label, but this one was my favorite of all the ones I have tried.  It has all the underpinnings of this series, with some briny notes and sharp rye, but what brought to love this whiskey was the creamy texture on the palate that supplemented the spiciness with sweet vanilla and cinnamon sugar notes.  It is highly doubtful that this particular barrel is still available anywhere, but Willett has begun bottling their own ryes, and what I’ve had so far has been pretty promising.

 

 

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Willett Family Estate Bottled 4 Year Single Barrel Rye Review

Today, I am reviewing a rare release bottled by Willett, their Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Rye.  It also marks my second tandem review with William from A Dram Good Time, in the midst of his very good series on American whiskeys.  This particular review is of barrel 79, and it is sourced from Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (the same distillery that sources Bulliet 95).  This is a straight rye whiskey, aged 4 years, and bottled at 110 proof.  I have reviewed Willett’s standard bourbon Estate Reserve on the site, and talked a little about Kentucky Bourbon Distillers.  Generally, KBD sources and bottles whiskey out of the old Willett distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky.  However, the distillery was rebuilt a few years back, and it is active again.  I think we will see some pretty good whiskeys coming out of Willett within the next few years.Willett Single Barrel Rye

For now, we just have sourced whiskeys, but they definitely have a history of being pretty damn good.  KBD bottles sourced ryes and bourbons under the Willett label at many different ages, and most of them are bottled at their barrel strength.  The Willett rare releases can be pretty hard to find, but they are worth the buy if you can snag a bottle.

On the nose, this whiskey is pure rye, with bold notes of pumpernickel bread, ginger, basil, and some oregano.  The nose does have a solid backbone of the dill brine that exemplifies LDI ryes.  The palate enters with some sweetness, like honey roasted peanuts or cinnamon sugar.  In the back, it gets a little salty and sweet, like sweet gherkin pickles.  The finish brings some wonderful heat, but it is balanced with vanilla, caramel, lime juice, and sweet dill mayonnaise (not sure if that exists).

Overall, this is a pretty damn good rye whiskey.  It is young enough to maintain a big rye character, but aged enough to make it drinkable and well-rounded.  Water doesn’t do it much good in my opinion.  It brings out the pickle juice nose, and the whiskey loses some depth at lower proofs.  However, like anything else, try one of these Willett ryes for yourself and see what you think.  My Grade: B+.  Price: $35-40/750ml.  For as hard as this one is to find, it is a great value.  If you like young ryes, this one is a great buy.

Here are William’s tasting notes and thoughts, and a link to his review.

Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye 4 Year Review Notes

Color:  Amber / Copper

Nose:  Vanilla frosting, crushed pine needles, spearmint, mint leaves, and light brown sugar.

Palate:  Creamy toffee, vanilla, dill weed, ginger, light cinnamon, slightly bitter oak, again light brown sugar, hints of maple, and mint. Very drinkable, so no water here.

Finish:  Long with toffee, spices, and mint – Just lingers along.

Overall this is a pretty well balanced whiskey, but given time in the glass the sweetness really starts to pull up. It also has a great amount of character and cask influence despite its age – Perhaps this is an example of how warehouse location makes a difference. The nose was fabulous, but the palate is what really shined to me – Absolutely great for the price as well.

Recommended

Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel Review

Today, I am reviewing Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon.  The name is quite a mouthful, and the bottle is quite a sight.  I ranked it as one of my favorite bottle designs, and you can see why.  The bourbon in the bottle is a single barrel bourbon bottled at 94 proof.  It is distributed by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, who also distribute Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, and Kentucky Vintage, just to name a few.

On the nose, Willett is a real treat.  It is light, elegant, and sweet.  There are notes of freshly cut flowers, caramel popcorn, vanilla, herbs, herbal tea, and some light wood spices.  The palate is light-bodied, giving way to flavors of caramel apples, maple syrup, toasted coconut, some light herbal spices, and some floral notes.  The finish is not especially long, but it does taste very nice.  The finish reminds me a lot of caramel popcorn, but there is are also some light herbal and wood spices that come through.

Overall, Willett is a very unique bourbon, a bit reminiscent of some of the Four Roses products I’ve reviewed. My only complaint is that it does not have a lot of body, even when bottled at 94 proof.  I think that it could be bottled at an even higher proof, with a lot of benefits.  As it stands, Willett is not a great value buy as it is relatively pricey, but it is a fantastic whiskey.  It makes a great gift (especially because of the bottle design), and it should be savored slowly and responsibly.  It is easy to drink a bit too much of this one… My grade: B-.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  This is a very enjoyable whiskey to keep around, but there are better (in my opinion) bourbons on the market for less money.