...where distraction is the main attraction.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NOT Single Malt Report: Willett 5yr Family Estate Single Barrel Straight Rye

Having successfully contributed to the Internet Complain-o-Tron on Monday and Tuesday, I thought it'd be best to bring something positive to the table today.  A whisky review!

Let's see, next stop on the World Whisky Tour is...


(CIA Source, seriously)
Back on February 23rd, amidst one of the most epic whisky experiences of this lifetime, I was introduced to rye whiskey via a taste of Willett 3yr Single Barrel Straight Rye.  It was a success in my mouth:  an intense, spicy, fragrant, delicious glass of brown liquid, as noted in this whisky report.

I've tried a couple other ryes since.  They're good.  But not Willett Good.  It was only a matter of time before I was going to be purchasing a bottle of my own.  My first American Whiskey bottle acquisition.    Easily available in this part of California and very nicely priced, the 5yr Willett Rye wound up in the Whisky Closet two weeks ago.

BottlerKentucky Bourbon Distillers (formerly Willett Distilling Company)
Brand: Willett Family Estate Single Barrel
Age: 5 years
Maturation: New Oak
Region: Bourbon County, Kentucky
Barrel: 64
Bottle: 190/192
Alcohol by Volume: 55%

It's different than the rye I'd tried in February, with an additional two years in new oak and two degrees lighter in ABV.  But it's tremendous!

It's big and brash and brilliant.  Fully American in its character.  It's Gershwin and Copland and flapper girls and apple pie eating contests and town square picnics and swimsuit competitions and maple syrup-drowned pancakes and hyperbole and amber waves of grain.

It's muscular, yet complex.  You know, like me.   (^0_0^)


A little background on Willett:

The Willett Distilling Company opened their own distillery a couple years after Prohibition's repeal.  They cranked out bourbons for about forty years, until the late '70s when they attempted to produce ethanol during the energy crisis.  When gas prices came back down, the plant went out of business.

In 1984, the Willett family restarted the business under a new name, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD).  They operated as an independent bottler, using distillate from other companies in their bourbon releases.

But in January of this year, the Willett distillery reopened!  It has a brand new pot still and brand new American jobs.
It'll be a couple of years in oak before those whiskies show up in stores.  So, for now the Willett bottlings obtain the white dog (new make) from nearby distilleries.

For instance, this rye's spirit came from the big contract-only Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI) right across the border.  Then Willett/KBD gave it a 5-year investment in a good new American oak barrel, numbered "64".

The Whiskey:

I don't know what the actual rye content is of this bottling (must be 51% minimum to be labelled 'rye') but I'm assuming it's very high.  I'm not picking up much barley or wheat or corn whiskey in here.

These tasting notes are only for a neat serving, compiled over several of those servings.  I can't and won't bring myself to befoul it with water.

Color -- Cherry Wood meets molasses
Nose -- Spicy!, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, maple syrup, bubblegum, cocoa powder, cherries
Palate -- Nutty, maple syrup, fruit juices, cloves, coffee beans, white peppercorns, molasses; despite high ABV it's VERY drinkable.
Finish -- Massive, juicy, coffee beans, cloves, cocoa powder

The spice kick is very upfront, while the cocoa powder and coffee beans float out of the background.  Really enjoyable.  I keep finding different characteristics upon each return.

For those of you who are not crazy anoraks, be comforted knowing that my wife did a couple sniffs and sips......and not a single Whisky Face.

For those of you who are Scotch whisky fans, this drink is not Scotch.  At all.  Totally different beast.  If you like subtlety and abhor big sherried drams, then this probably isn't for you.  But if you have a crazy adventurous palate, this is American Power at its best.

Availability - Many liquor specialists
Pricing - Tremendous at $35-$40
Rating - 90


  1. Hi Thekrav, I'm enjoying the blog! I'm a big fan of Willett Rye myself, and have a big stash in the whisky closet. This is so different because of the whopping 95% rye content, which is common to all LDI rye whiskies, or so I heard. See also http://recenteats.blogspot.com/2011/12/more-ldi-rye-willett-three-year-old-rye.html

    1. Hi Florin, thanks for the comment! I'm bonkers for Willett Rye too. I'm pretty sure you're right about the 95% rye content. Such a massive lovely whiskey. That 3-year-old that SKU reviewed at Recent Eats is amazing...and all gone from the stores. I'm still on the lookout for it anyway.

  2. Hi ,
    I was looking at the back of the bottle and it reads "distilled in Kentucky " if it was ldi it would distilled in Indiana

    1. Whoa. Interesting. My other bottle says Distilled in Indiana and Bottled in Bardstown, KY. I wonder if they contracted out their juice elsewhere for some time?