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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Willett Family Reserve Rye Whiskey

I've seen these bottles adorn many behind the case shelves and have heard good things about this whiskey. While MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana owns much of the rye whiskey market, today we take a quick look at an all-Kentucky product - Willett Family Estate 3-Year Rye Whiskey.

All in the Family

The Willett Family came to the new world in the late 1600s and by 1792 had settled in Nelson County in central Kentucky. Through the mid 1800s and into the early 1900s, several Willetts served as co-owners of distilleries and master distillers. Following Prohibition, ground was broken on the family's farm in 1936 in Bardstown, Kentucky. Over the years, brands have included Willett Pot Still Reserve, Willett Family Estate Bottled Bourbon, Old Bardstown, Johnny Drum and several small batch boutique bourbons, including Rowan's Creek, Noah's Mill, Kentucky Vintage and Pure Kentucky. In 2008, the Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye was introduced.

The Tasting

This bottle is a blend of two rye whiskeys - a high rye mash bill containing 74% rye, 11% corn, and 15% malted barley, and a low rye mash bill containing 51% rye, 34% corn, and 15% malted barley. The label shares that this whiskey has been aged in hand-selected white oak barrels for 3 years and has been bottled at 108 proof.

Color: Amber honey. A quick swirl in the glass leaves evenly spaced medium legs around the inside of the Glencairn glass.

Nose: Minty with herbal notes - like freshly minced rosemary balanced nicely with These are balanced with sweeter notes of caramel toffee and toasted oak.

Palate: Mint and peppery spice followed by sweeter notes of caramel toffee along with some grassier, earthier notes of malted grains. As someone who is not always a "rye whiskey guy", this one is hitting my palate nicely.

Finish: An intense flash of peppery spice immediately makes its presence known and reminds you that this is a rye whiskey. Lingering herbal and mint notes balance with the peppery spice to give this a long finish.

Overall: You'll find several expressions of rye whiskey from Willett. While initially aged only a couple of years, you'll see some 3-year, and to a greater extent, 4-year products on many shelves. Proofs will also vary with some of these releases, as well, upwards of 111 or more. As a higher-proof whiskey, along with being flavorful, this can be a great addition to an Old Fashioned or other bourbon cocktail.

Many rye whiskeys tend towards the minty side or even the sweeter side, like Old Forester Rye and the Woodford Reserve Rye brands. This one is pretty unique in that it all comes together nicely - sweet, mint, herbal, and earthy notes. I'm a fan!

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