As previously noted in my review of the Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye, the Willett Family Reserve series is produced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, an independent bottler located in Bardstown, KY and groundbreakers of the new Willett Distillery, which filled their first barrel back in January of 2012.
Simply put, KBD is a giant in the world of American whisky bottlers. They operate out of the old Willett Distillery, and although they distribute most of their own labels, they also bottle for other non-distiller producers such as Michter’s. Until KBD reopened the Willett Distillery last year they weren’t distilling any of their products. It is said that most of the juice that goes into their brands, which include Corner Creek, Willett, Black Maple Hill, Noah’s Mill, Rowan’s Creek and others, comes from Heaven Hill, which is located right across the road. However, they won’t disclose that sort of information.
The Willett Family Estate Bourbon label is one of the more popular products and exists for the sole purpose of their Private Barrel Selection Program, which is quite unique in its own sense – Distributors, bars and retail outlets from across the country can choose between 4 and 10-year-old stock and KBD will pull samples from up to six different casks of the chosen age. Once the customer narrows the selection down to the cask(s) they prefer, the whisky is then bottled. The end result is a single cask, non chill-filtered, cask strength, straight Bourbon whisky. This particular bottle is a 10-year-old chosen by Liquor World in Cambridge, MA. It should be noted that bottles of Willett older than 10 years do exist out there, and they can offer some very enjoyable experiences.
Price: Approx $65/750ml
ABV: 63% – Cask Strength / Non Chill-Filtered
Nose: It starts off sweet with a little spice, dry oak and a nice little kick. Behind that there are hints of dark chocolate, vanilla, dark toffee, toasted oak now, muscovado and a bit of dried apple with cinnamon.
Palate: A little bolder than the nose and quite “chewy” – Comes in full force with those dark toffee notes, vanilla, bitter oak and wood spices, toasted caramel, baked apple peel, cocoa, cinnamon and almond.
w/ Water: Calming it down a bit with a little water brings more of a balance to the sweet, bitter and spice characteristics, but it still holds its rich mouthfeel.
Finish: Moderate to long with slightly bitter oak, spices and dark toffee sweetness.
Overall this is a great Willett. It has a good amount of oak influence that’s slightly on the bitter side, but a little water seems to balance it out nicely. Coincidentally, I’ve heard fantastic things about the younger 7 and 8-year-old Willett Single Barrel Bourbons. The older Willett’s shine as well, so suffice to say you really can’t go wrong with most any bottle. I may be getting my hands on a 7 year bottling to try soon.