Maker: Willett/KBD, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA
Distiller: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA
Style: High rye rye whiskey (I am now dubbing this Indiana style rye)
Age: 4 y/o
Proof: 110 (55% ABV)
Appearance: Fairly dark copper with thick legs.
Nose: Pine sap, oak, caramel, tarragon, alcohol, woodruff.
On the palate: Full bodied. Sweet and herbaceous, then hot. With a splash of water, the resemblance to Bulleit rye is very apparent. Sweet caramel, hay and spearmint.
Finish: Burn and a little caramel, then it’s all starlight mints. Lasts for almost as long as one of those would in the mouth! With some water, tarragon and basil come out and settle into licorice before gently fading away.
Parting words: The Willett ryes being released at increasing ages every year are from the same Indiana distillery supplying Bulleit Rye, Templeton Rye, Redemption Rye and many others. The differences being that the Willetts are all at barrel proof and are single barrel selections. They are not available in Michigan, but are fairly easy to find in Kentucky and Indiana. At over $30, they’re not cheap but these are at barrel strength so one is getting more for one’s money. If 110 proof is too high for you, that’s why God made water.
Anyhow, Willett Family Estate Rye is the finest example of Indiana Rye I have tasted to date. For something that is almost entirely rye and is only 4 years old, it has a good deal going on. I wouldn’t call it complex, but it’s more balanced than many of its siblings and it is a much better value than Templeton or High West’s Double Rye. I enjoy Kentucky “barely legal” style rye better, but if rye character is what you crave, Willett Rye is recommended.