Thursday, April 27, 2023

Review: Willett Family Estate Bottled Small Batch Rye

Color (5%):  Medium amber, dark honey, hay hues. Medium thinning at the edges. 3/5

Nose (10%):  You can smell this one from 5 feet away. It is potent, and the rye is sharp. There are notes of pine and a good amount of oak. Crisp caramel sugars dance with apple and toffee. The rye is there; you get some of that deli rye bread scent. 8/10

Palate (20%): Big dried fruit notes on the back end. It has lots of raisin characteristics, almost like a port wine. There's a menthol character, and with the high alcohol, it almost feels like Vic's on your tongue. That sounds worse than it is. It has a slight green tea feel. Lots of green and purple. Very dry, with little sugar and tiny honey notes before the botanicals and spice kick in. 14/20

Finish (10%): The alcohol is definitely there. The menthol and botanical notes fade into a bit of black pepper spice and toasted barley. Medium length. 7/10

Overall Impression and Harmony (30%): This took some time, but I don't mind it. There's some complexity, but I prefer a bit mellow for an over-proof whiskey. This booze is hot. This brand makes some great bourbon, but this is pretty rough. I wouldn't call it anything too special. The age statement is pretty standard, and I want it to have more oak and char. It's got lots of flavors but needs a real sense of harmony. 21/30

Retry on Ice (25%): The menthol stays the dominant note here. A bit more fruit starts to poke its head out. There are notes of citrus. I still want more oak. There is a mild improvement from neat, but not much really changes. 20/25

Total Ranking: 73% Legendary, Amazing, GreatGood, Fair, Average, Tolerable, Swill

Estimated Fair Price: $42
Actual Price: $55

Conclusion: This is okay. As I said, the bourbon these guys make is excellent, but this is a rough rye. It's an experiment that they slapped their branding unto. There's an upcharge for the name brand. There isn't much of a market for overproof rye whiskeys. Knob Creek or Russell's Reserve / Wild Turkey beat this guy in my book, especially for a rocks serve. It's worth a try if it's available, but this will probably sit on my shelf for a while. 

Fact Sheet: 
ABV: 54.9% (varies batch to batch)
Mashbill: A blend of the Willett high rye mash bill (74% rye, 11% corn, 15% malted barley) with the Willett low rye mash bill (51% rye, 34% corn, 15% malted barley)
Aged 4 years
Distilled at Willett Distillery, Bardstown, Kentucky