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Monday, December 11, 2017

Willett Week One: 7 year old bourbon, barrel 255 for The Party Source

There comes a time when we heed a certain call,
When the blogger must review
Two weeks worth of Willetts.

This week, I'll report on three Family Estate Single Barrel bourbons. Next week, it'll be the ryes.

Though I may not like secondary market prices on bourbons, I usually understand where the valuation comes from. The Van Winkle collection is well known even outside of whiskey circles. The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection is perpetually in demand and often delivers high quality. Defunct distillery whiskies are part of history and in limited supply.

But I don't understand why the Willett single barrel bourbons are pulling astronomical asking prices. I'm not talking about the 20+ year old stuff. I'm referring to the 6-12 year old wax top bourbons that sell for Van Winkle prices. The Willett Family Estate Single Barrel brand isn't known outside of whiskey geek circles, and the majority of barrels are sourced from existing distilleries. So the naive sexy/lusty factor is lower than the whiskies named in the above paragraph. And it's not like there were just a few barrels laid out. There have been hundreds. So I'm stumped.

Musing complete. On to the review.

I sampled all three of this week's whiskies together — yes it was one of those nights — in order to get some proper perspective. As an added bonus, Kristen joined the Taste Off! First up is a 7 year old single barrel that was sold exclusively through The Party Source several years ago.

BottlerKentucky Bourbon Distillers (also known as Willett Distilling Company)
Brand: Willett
Range: Family Estate Single Barrel (WFE)
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age7 years
MaturationNew American Oak
RegionBardstown, Kentucky (Distilled in/by ???)
Barrel: 255
Bottle: 28 or 164
Exclusive to: The Party Source
Alcohol by Volume60.1%
(Thanks to Florin for the sample!)

This one has the most violent nose of the three, bringing heat and chlorine at first. But it opens up after 10-15 minutes, showing off cherry candy / marasca syrup, apricot jam, cocoa powder and flower blossoms. The heavy palate is full of sugar and salt, almond extract, and corn bread. There's a tiny bit of lemon zest and oranges. A complete lack of rye. The finish is sharper than the palate, with more barrel char and bitterness. But it also has a lightly sweet and aromatic layer beneath the noise.

Kristen immediately noticed the chlorine character too. But she also found more positive notes of vanilla and rosemary.

The first thing I noticed was how freaking heavy full-strength bourbon is when one has been drinking primarily "Japanese" whisky for a few weeks. So it took a while for my palate to adjust. Luckily, this one requires some time in the glass.

The nose is the highlight here. The palate is pretty straightforward, though I wish there had been more rye and/or fruit notes present. That goes for the finish as well. Overall, it probably has no major flaws, but it lacks the complexity of similarly aged WFE rye.

The next two bourbons are a little older...

As for this 7yo...

Availability - Secondary market
Pricing - A lot. And if this had a wax top then it's a lot a lot allot.
Rating - 83

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