...where distraction is the main attraction.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Willett Week: Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Rye 5 years old, Barrel #64

Today, I'm covering a 5 year old Willett rye that was distilled in Kentucky (possibly at the Buffalo Trace or Brown-Forman distilleries) rather than the usual source at LDI/MGP in Indiana.  Meanwhile, it turns out that yesterday's 5 year old Willett rye was in fact distilled at LDI/MGP.  That leaves me with the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good: Having tasted the two 5 year olds side by side, I was (unknowingly) able to compare two Willetts sourced from two different distilleries.

The Bad: The similarities I'd thought I'd found in the distillate were either my imagination or, at best, the result of similar oak and maturation conditions.

The Ugly: I actually reviewed whiskey from this very bottle back in April 2012.  Not only are today's notes very different than those previous ones, but this whiskey went from being my favorite Willett to my least favorite Willett.

Of course, my least favorite Willett still ranks in the 80-percentile of all the whisk(e)y I've ever tried.  Here's the back of that original bottle, with the "Distilled in Kentucky" description at the bottom.

Our old cruddy countertops and old tacky backsplash are there in the background
from days of yore, before we tore them all out...

And here is the sample bottle, I had stashed away over a year ago.

BottlerKentucky Bourbon Distillers (formerly Willett Distilling Company)
Brand: Willett Family Estate Single Barrel
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey
Age5 years
MaturationNew American Oak
RegionBardstown, Kentucky
Barrel: 64
Bottle: 190/192
Alcohol by Volume55%

The juice may be from a different source, but the color remains the same as the others: maple syrup.  The nose is the corniest of the Willetts so far.  Corny and creamy, creamed corn?  The paint-like fumes that I'd sniffed in yesterday's rye are here too but more subtle and arise later on.  Lots of green grains, fresh wood pulp, molasses, and hot hay.  It's a little toffee-ish too with some vanilla extract thrown in, and some Juicy Fruit gum.  There's the cinnamon, but maybe in bark or stick form.  With some more time in the glass, the rye releases notes of cilantro, turkey gravy, cloves, and notebook paper. The palate is where this one separates itself from the others.  The tree bark, cinnamon candy, and black peppercorn notes are not surprising.  But the lightly perfumed vegetal bitterness is.  And then something eggy; can there be sulfur in rye?  On the other hand there's still some nice sweetness going on.  The odder notes go away in the finish.  It's full of buttery oak, cinnamon, and mint.  It goes on and on, bringing with it some cocoa powder and cloves as well as a very mild bitterness.

Kristen says it smells of farm equipment and wet hay.  I wish I'd smelled that, too!

How do I account for the differences between my notes here and the ones from April 2012?  Maybe my palate changed.  Perhaps trying this rye side-by-side with another one allowed me to pick out different notes and get more specific.  Or maybe something changed in the bottle.  My review last year was from whiskey towards the top of the bottle.  This sample was poured four months later when the fill level was at the midpoint.

While I won't rave about it like most of the other Willetts from this week's reports, it's still a decent rye.  Ultimately the nose is nice, so is the finish.  While the good finale actually makes one forget about the palate's quirks, those oddities are still there.  I'm thinking this version of Willett's rye may appeal better to folks who aren't the biggest fans of LDI's 95% rye mashbill.  For the rest of us, keep an eye on the back of the label for "Distilled in Indiana", that may be the difference between good and great.

Availability - Not sure who's still carrying the 5 year
Pricing - $35-$40 (East Coast, Midwest), $40-$45 (West Coast)
Rating - 83