Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. This is one of those times.
I had wanted to collect as many Willetts as possible to try and do a proper vertical. Or whatever you call it when you review a NAS and a bunch of whiskies that go up in age, one year by one year.
I honestly thought it’d be fun.
And I ended up with quite a few samples. However some samples turned out to be harder to find then others, and then my wife mentioned that I should abstain from swapping for awhile because we were running out of room for samples.
So here’s my little shrine to Willett today.
Willett distillery was founded by the Willett, who you can read about on the website, because they figured out down to the 17th century relatives the history.
The family has been distilling and growing the distilling industry for centuries. And had their own distillery, up until the 1980s.
No, I won’t be reviewing some rare ass dusties today.
Nor did I get some of the “whiskey” from 2012 when they started making their own again.
See, instead, Willett Distillery, aka Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, aka, KBD, aka THE LEAGUE OF EVIL (j/k about that last one), has been buying distillate from MGP and then aging it themselves.
But they are working on it. I’m going to review each of their sourced whiskies today, because that’s what I could get my hands on.
So, Willett be good? Willett be bad? Willett be full of puns? Willett see!
(I know, that last one didn’t really work).
So up first we have the NAS product, Willett Pot Still Reserve. Which I think makes this not a vertical. Or something. Welcome to the gang review.
Willett Pot Still Reserve is a Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey bottled after 8-10 years of aging.
Now at first, you wonder if this will be more like an Irish pot-still whisky. Not really, as a column still is used as part of the distillation process, with the pot still used in the doubler stage.
Now this used to be a single barrel bourbon. However earlier last year, in the away times when all was dark and sad, it became a Small Batch whiskey instead. Which means it has the words “Small Batch” on it instead of following the old requirements. The company uses, at most, 12 barrels in it’s small batches.
Suffice to say, makes you wonder if all the awards that were won before that happened should be revised a little bit. This may have changed.
So, let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Price: N/A at the LCBO
Colour: 7.5YR 5/8
Nose: Honey, wood shavings, brown sugar, lemon, jalapeno
Sweet nose. Different levels of molasses coming out on it. Also quite hot (spicy) and a little bit woody.
Nothing too mind blowing, though nice nose. Expected a little more at the high abv.
Taste: Creamed honey, powder ginger, Perrier, wood, caramel
More honey, and now quite hot. Very hot. Also very minerally.
Given some time, additional wood and caramel come out. Again, nothing mind blowing.
Finish: Honey, wood, cream soda, orange, alcohol
Finish is pretty rough. It’s quite sweet, the acid doesn’t have anything to play off, and holy damn does the alcohol come out with time.
It’s like Uncle Jethro. We gave him time to come out, and now he fucks oranges.
Wait, that’s nothing like Uncle Jethro!
Conclusion: It’s okay, but nothing spectacular. I can see it as a nice beginner’s bourbon. It has the typical caramel, wood, and sweet notes to it.
All in all, the bottle design is pretty. I like that. The alcohol at the end, the fact it’s not too balanced, and fuck it, the entire finish really is all too rough. It’s okay, just not my thing.
Thanks to /u/I-SAID-NO-GOLDFISH for this dram.
Going to do a few of these, so I’ve decided to cut down what I’m writing, as there’s not much to explain.
Willett Family Reserve is a line of Single Barrels sold throughout the US (except probably Utah and Hawaii). Each is it’s own barrel, has it’s own ups and downs, and is either a Bourbon or
Willett Family Reserve 6 Year rye is up first. I believe it was shipped out to California. I stole the image from a blog, if the blog owner is angry, I’m sorry, I’ll take it down.
Barrel #: 122
Colour: 10YR 6/8
Nose: Butterscotch, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, varnish, pear, potato
Immediately smells like sweets. Quite tasty. Eventually there’s some raw parts to it though.
Like that time. You know, that time, you know? Happens to everyone. You start walking into a bakery, smelling all the different sweets, and then immediately accidentally wander into a Ukranian place that’s renovating.
You know, that old story.
Taste: Butter, white sugar, radish, ginger, rosemary, floral, cranberry
Again, earth and sweet. More floral this time. I’m liking this better than the nose.
You know, that old thing. That old story, where you’re sitting back, and then this person you find attractive walks in, but you don’t like their nose. None the less, as we do in societies around the world, you taste them, and like it better.
Still don’t fuck them though. That’d be weird.
Finish: Floral, earth, melon rind, vegetal, caramel, medicinal
More floral, the earth and medicinal qualities here really come out.
Whole thing reminds me of the time I blew up the word and ended it all, but then this earth/flowers showed up and I tasted them and then put it all back.
But hey, Tuesdays, right?
Conclusion: This is much better than the first one. I liked the floral aspects quite a bit. That’s my kind of rye. And the earth elements were nice too.
That all said, it’s still pretty rough around the edges. I’d have let this stick in the cask a little longer. Needs more time to take out the rougher, hot parts.
Thanks to /u/devoz for the last minute sample.
Willett Family Reserve 7 year rye. Yup, it’s like the last one. But 1 year older. And perhaps in a different cask. And by perhaps, I mean… yeah, same one.
So… how about that Sports team doing well? Really makes you happy to be a local, right?
Let’s get to the whiskey.
Barrel #: 675
Colour: 2.5YR 4/10
Nose: Floral, melon, bread, caramel, orange, canned pears, alcohol
Again, floral, however the rough elements are a little more subdued. It’s more like having a proper sweetness without the earth this time.
That said, there’s still a little bit of alcohol. It’s still a little young.
Taste: Canned pears, oak, butter, caramel, icing, rice
I like canned pears. I wonder why I haven’t had them lately? Oh, yeah, I’m an adult male and I’m worried about what others thing. Somehow.
After awhile, there’s this rice flavour at the end. Given time it opens up more. Kinda starchy. I like it, oddly enough.
Finish: Caramel, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, oak, dry, pine, peach
Finishes quite dry. Nothing too big or anything. It’s standard for a nice dram.
Conclusion: Overall a well put together dram. It’s floral in the right ways, finishes dry, and kinda sweet.
There’s nothing that will blow your mind. It’s quite taste, is well put together, and is on it’s way. I’d have probably given it a little more time in the barrel.
I would be happy with a bottle of this one, I think. It’s a solid, nice young rye.
Thanks to /u/cnbrown313 for this sample.
Willett Family Reserve 8 year rye. Like the last one. But a different barrel. And it ended up being sold by someone else. I think.
Does anyone really know? Probably, and feel free to comment, I’m just filling in space because I don’t really have much to say other than what I’ve already said multiple times.
Here, have a dick joke. What do you mean it’s not a joke? Google it yourself!
Barrel #: 1457
Colour: 5YR 6/10
Nose: Maple wood, cloves, cantaloupe, varnish, pear, spice cake
Not maple syrup. More so maple chunks of wood. Freshly cut down.
After a bit, it opens up with some more spices. No floral notes this time, more fruity. There’s some varnish in there to remind me it’s harsh. Nice nose, just needs to calm its tits a little bit.
Taste: Maple, cinnamon, oak, linseed oil, caramel, raw alcohol, butter
If this was a Canadian whisky, I’d be kinda impressed. Probably give it the same score, but impressed none the less.
There’s a raw element here that tells me this needed more time to cook in the barrel. And yes, that’s not literal, I mean it needs more time to age, but I used cook to change things up.
Finish: Cinnamon, oak, grassy, orange, cashew, vitamin tablets, red flavour, caramel
Finishes like a Speyside on meth. Which has upsides and downsides.
Upsides? There’s an interesting, youthful grassiness that is hard to duplicate well, mixes of nutes and oak.
Downsides? It tastes fake in spots, is trying to be dry, and oh, it hocked your TV and took apart your radio.
Conclusion: Don’t do meth.
Also this is a nice dram. It needs work, but it’s getting there. Nice calm, spicy young rye. Overall I’d want to leave it for a bit and get the rough spots worked out. Given the price, probably wouldn’t want a bottle of this one. However you may really like this type of rye, so it may be for you.
Thanks to /u/planigan412 for this sample
Willett Family Reserve 9 year bourbon. Not a rye. It’s a combo breaker!
Yup, 1 year more than the last one. That said, this is bourbon, not rye. And it’s not a small batch like the first one, it’s a single barrel. And it didn’t come from Poland from a company that can’t send to Canada anymore.
Also there’s no pot still process that I can find out about. In the doubler stage.
Let’s see how it tastes, shall we?
Barrel #: 7152
Colour: 7.5YR 7/10
Nose: Caramel, cantaloupe, blackberry, oak, nutty, peach
Very fruity and woody, like skydiving naked into a banana farm.
Nose is strong. Takes a long time to get through the caramel notes.
Taste: Peanut, burn, peach drink, caramel, tobacco
Strong. Holy balls strong. Don’t usually add water to my whisk(e)y at all, but hot damn, this needs it.
Given time, water, and time, not to mention water, it opens up a little to… more burn and some cheap-y flavours. Not really enjoying this one.
Finish: Pickle, peanut butter, black pepper
Finishes off with a vinegar flavour that reminds me of pickles, peanut butter, and some strong heat/earth flavour.
And if that makes you thirsty, don’t drink this, because you’re pregnant. Unless you’re not going to keep then kid, then get drunk, get crunk, and get fucked up.
Conclusion: Didn’t expect an abortion joke, eh? Well I didn’t say it was. If the kids an orphan, why not drink up? You don’t gotta deal with it.
Now that I’ve alienated everyone with something that is obviously a joke that I don’t believe, let’s discuss this whiskey.
I liked the nose. Kinda. The rest tried. The taste was… okay. I guess. Overall kinda a let down. I was expecting something really interesting, with interesting, big flavours, and instead it’s just doing all the wrong things at once.
I can’t say that it’s a bad dram. I can say that I wouldn’t want a bottle of it, or a glass. I can note that there’s quality work in this, just not something I want inside me anymore.
Like that time I went skydiving.
Thanks to /u/Marcovici for this sample.
Willett Family Reserve 11 year bourbon is the final one. What, you thought I could get my hands on a 10 year? You have way too much hope in my ability to get things. I was cut off by my wife for swaps.
And from what I’ve heard, for the while that I was aiming for the 10 year, it was only at the distillery. Or the Mountains were harrying swappers from the US. One or the other.
None the less, this is an 11 year, so that’s pretty close. It’s not really a vertical because… well, it can’t be for reasons I don’t really understand. None the less, I’ve been told Willetts above 10 years start getting good, so now that my biases are set, let’s see how this tastes, shall we?
Barrel #: 2100
Colour: 2.5YR 2/8
Nose: Raisin, oak, butter, thyme, roses, hot sauce, sand
Okay, this is different. Starts off with this really rich, big flavour. Reminds me of a Rosebank, or other older Lowland.
Eventually has this mixture of vinegar and an earth with heat. I don’t know why, but it screams hot sauce and sand to me.
Taste: Caramel, oak, grape, butter, molasses, pear juice, cashew
Hot. Needs water, without a doubt.
After water there’s more than just oak and caramel. Opens up to an older Rum sort of flavour. I’m missing the floral aspects, however it’s nice to sip on.
Finish: Floral, oak/vanilla, sprite-y, cola, horseradish, raisin, icing
There’s this tingling that I get from this one. Typically that’s accompanied with an array of flavours. Not so in this case. Sweet and hot flavours are around, and the richness is back.
Conclusion: Overall a really, really rich dram. And then nothing else. It’s a head scratcher, that’s for certain.
All in all, I like the rich aspects, and can appreciate a dram that does “dark caramel sauce” as the main and backup notes. That said, it’s not super complex.
I liked this one the best. I wish it had evaporated a little more. There’s just one more step with a lot of these Willetts, so I think I’ll have to keep trying older and older ones.
You know, like I do with women.
Bourbon reviews #121-126, Kentucky reviews #86-91, Whiskey Network reviews #735-740