Willett Bourbon review — the Willett bourbons are some of the most sought-after and highly respected craft bourbons on the market. Even though their production size and modern distilling age indicate they are a craft distillery, it is difficult to classify Willett as such.
The distillery was first opened in the spring of 1936 by Thompson Willett. Through the years, the distillery (like most in Kentucky) has seen its highs and lows but stayed in the family. Presently, the distillery is led by Drew Kulsveen who is their Master Distiller and a descendant of Thompson Willett.
In recent history, the family was known for its tremendous releases sourced from undisclosed neighbors, but they have recently begun to release some of their own distillate. In this Willett bourbon review, we’ll talk about products that are both their own juice and sourced juice.
Keeping it in the Family with Willett Bourbon Review
This review includes three bottles that carry the Willett family name: Willett Pot Still Reserve, Willett Family Estate Bourbon, and Willett Family Estate Rye. Let’s get to it!
Let’s start with the Pot Still Reserve.
Pot Still Reserve Review
This bottle is the most unique bottle on the market in the brown liquor industry. It’s a beautiful glass bottle that is shaped like the famous pot still that sits inside the Willett Distillery. There is an elegantly embossed wax seal on the front of the bottle serving as a medallion honoring the family name.
The whiskey inside the bottle has not been distilled by Willett Distillery, and the source of the whiskey is not made public. However, like all products bottled at Willett, it is long rumored that most of their juice comes from their neighbors around the corner at Heaven Hill.
The mash bill and age are not disclosed, but the whiskey inside the bottle is proofed at 94, or 47 percent alcohol. If you are looking to pick this bottle up at your local store, it should set you back between forty and fifty dollars.
Pot Still Reserve Tasting Notes
The nose on this whiskey relays notes of sweet corn, caramelized sugar and unusual hints of vanilla lemon cake. You don’t often get that note in bourbon, so it can be a bit off-putting if you aren’t ready for it.
The palate brings back those citrus notes, mixed with more traditional bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel, and spices. There’s also a hint of dry oak as the bourbon sits in your mouth.
The finish of this bourbon is medium in length and dry. The flavors that come through on the finish are, again, citrus, caramel, and peppery spice.
Overall, we think this is a good, not great, bourbon. When compared to its peers in the marketplace it holds up against some of the other major distiller’s offerings. That is if you can get it at retail. We would not recommend paying much over fifty dollars for this whiskey, however.
Let’s move on to the Willett Family Estate Bourbon.
Willett Family Estate Review
First and foremost, this is a difficult review to do because the Family Estate Bourbon line is the family’s Private Barrel Selection program. What this means for you (the consumer) is that these bottlings are one-off, individually-bottled productions.
No two barrels are the same, so unless you are reviewing two bottles from the same barrel, you could be comparing apples and oranges. It’s even possible two different bottles could have been produced from two different distilleries!
The Elegant Bottle That Holds The Whiskey
Each bottle in the Family Estate line features the Willett family crest prominently in the middle. Above that main label is the hand-detailed label that provides information on the whiskey inside the bottle.
Again, each barrel is different, so it is important to communicate as much information on the label as possible. As such, the label must be changed every time. This label includes the age, barrel number, and proof. It is important to note that all Family Estate Bourbon is bottled at Cask Strength, and is always un-chill filtered.
The bottle is too important to the whiskey inside to dump it into one of our beautiful hand-blown decanters, but such an elegant whiskey definitely deserves elegant glasses to hold it. Take a look at our selection of fine glassware.
Finally, let’s get to the Family Estate Rye.
Family Estate Rye Review
This bottle is nearly identical to the Family Estate Bourbon, but the color scheme is different. Instead of the deep purple, there’s vibrant emerald green on the Willett crest and the foil around the top of the neck.
This bottle also includes the all-important information label.
At the moment, Willett is releasing all the Family Estate Rye bottlings at four years old. This is significant because it is their own distillate! The present offering is small batched and bottled at 110 proof, or 55 percent alcohol.
Family Estate Rye Tasting Notes
This is a tremendous whiskey. The nose has beautiful layers of cherry, cinnamon, and oak. The one downside to this spectacular bouquet of smells is the powerful presence of the alcohol.
On the palate, it’s almost overwhelming. This is a powerful dram. We get flavors of stone fruit, vanilla, and baking spices. But the best part of this whiskey is the solid, almost heavy, mouthfeel it presents.
The finish on this whiskey is long and satisfying. It’s surprising, but the cherry doesn’t go away. It lingers for a long “Kentucky hug.”
This is a spectacular rye whiskey for just four years old. If you can find a bottle, buy a bottle. It’s that simple.
Willett Bourbon Review From Instagram Whiskey Enthusiasts
Well, you’ve heard from us, now let’s hear what the others have to say.
Pot Still Reserve Bourbon
“Still love this whiskey, not only for the bottle but for the bourbon inside too!” – @whiskyeejit
“The finish is warm and long. Not bad at all!” – @the_mature_paris
Family Estate Bourbon
“15-year family estate single barrel bourbon. 117.4 proof. It was excellent.” – @try_some_whiskey
“This bourbon has no business being this incredible at only 6 years old. Willett, bravo!” – @operasamstagram
Family Estate Rye
“When it comes to rye whiskeys, Willett is near the top of my list of favorites.” – @axisofwhisky
“At 111.6 proof, this bourbon tastes deliciously sweet with some heat at the end.” – @kybrownwatersociety
Well, folks, there you have it. We’ve sipped through three different offerings from the Willett Distillery and told you what we thought. Then we found what other people are thinking, and gave that to you, too.
Without a doubt, Willett is one of the most exciting craft distillers in the American whiskey game. We look forward to a day when they are distilling all their own stuff. If the four-year-old rye is any indication of the quality of the whiskey they can produce, we are in for a treat!
If you’ve sipped any of these whiskeys, we want to know which one is your favorite. Disagree with us? We want to know that too. Let us know in the comments below.