Willett Bourbon Review - Pure Family Affair

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

Willett Pot Still Reserve Review

Willett 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

Willett Family Estate Bourbon Whiskey Review

Willett Family Estate Bourbon Whiskey 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

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

Willett Family Estate Rye Whiskey Review

Willett Family Estate Rye Whiskey 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

The Finish 

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.