In September of 2012, I took my first tour of the Willett Distillery. There was a bit of cosmetic work still to be done, but they were up and running. I saw giant tanks full of fermenting mash and I was close enough to feel the heat coming off of their column still. I visited the warehouses and I took a lot of photos. Many ended up in the photo essay I did on it shortly after returning. Some of the photos I took there are among my favorite pictures I have taken at a distillery. It really is a beautiful place. That was just over two years ago.
Willett has always had a following amongst the whiskey geeks for the single barrel bourbons and ryes that they release. Sourced whiskey, that through skillful aging and careful selection, has come to be known as some of the best you can buy. And that’s not just the old-timers talking about what used to be. There are two that I bought within the last year that might be in my top five bourbons I’ve ever tasted. So needless to say when it was announced that Willett was distilling product of their own, the Whiskyratti were all atwitter at what might come of it.
In September 2014 I picked up a bottle of Willett Estate Bottled Rye, aged two years. Was this what I saw in the tanks or going through the stills two years ago? Probably not, since there wasn’t quite enough time for that (I was there almost two years to the day and they needed some time to select and bottle it). But it’s fun to think that as I drove past or toured the warehouses on that first trip this young rye was in there somewhere, just settling in to take its short nap on its way to becoming the juice in my bottle.
Here’s what the distillery has to say about it:
In the bottling of this Rye Whsikey, we commingled the high rye Willett mash bill (74% rye, 11% corn, 15% malted barley) with the low rye Willett mash bill (51% rye, 34% corn, 15% malted barley). A larger percentage of the high rye mash bill was used in the commingling process. This is a non-chillfiltered Rye Whiskey.
Willett Family Estate Bottled Small Batch Rye, Aged 2 years
Purchase info: $35 at the distillery gift shop
Details: 55.7% ABV. Distilled, aged and bottled by Willett Distillery. Cask strength. Small Batch, not single barrel like other Family Estate Bottled releases I've had.
Nose: Grain forward. Mint leaves, orange, pine sap, green cardamom pods.
Mouth: Sweet but with a definite tingle. Grain, savory herbs and spearmint.
Finish: Nice and long. Sweet and minty.
Thoughts: First off let me say this is a decent two year old whiskey. It might be the best I’ve had. That, of course, does not mean this is a great whiskey by any stretch of the imagination. It’s very good. But it’s very good for a two year old. This isn’t even old enough to be called whiskey in most whiskey-making countries. I have two different recommendations depending on who you are.
- If you are a lover of Willett and want to taste what they have been up to: buy this. It’s tasty enough that if you love it, like some do, awesome! If not, it’s cheap enough that you can say it fullfilled your curiosity.
- If you are new to rye whiskey: maybe wait. Not saying that you won’t like it, but you might want to let this one grow up a little more. It might disappoint if you aren’t prepared for it.