On the Rocks: Willett Straight Rye Whiskey
Willett Straight Rye Whiskey
I have already expressed the love for the great whiskeys from the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. Recently I had the great pleasure to sample one of the newest offerings from their Willett label, a Kentucky straight rye whiskey.
There is apparently a great deal of variation between bottlings of this single barrel rye so I will be specific as to which one I sampled. My bottle was from Barrel Number 39 and was bottled at 55% ABV or 110 proof. Since it is bottled at barrel proof, some bottles will have higher ABVs and some will have lower depending on the barrel they were bottled from. (I’m not sure on the average where mine would fall).
After having only two years to mature in wood, this rye has a surprisingly complex and bold taste. The initial flavor on the palate is sweet and creamy butterscotch candy with light hints of spicy citrus notes. It is on the finish that this whiskey drops the hammer, or rather the napalm. First, the alcohol hits with a powerful burn. It literally feels like you are about to breathe fire. (I remember saying something along the lines of, “Only 110 proof?”) Second, all the bold, peppery and spicy notes that rye whiskeys are known for explode on the palate. I’m positive that more time in the barrel would lead to more subtlety, complexity and character, but as it stands this is a whiskey that isn’t shy about its power and comes off well for all of its youthful brashness.
I was sure that after this first sip experience my palate was completely toasted by all of the pyrotechnics, and the finish does last a good long while, the second sip is just as flavorful and intense as the first. In all I would have to rate this fairly rare offering as a real treat. Best of all, it is an experience that will change from barrel to barrel, and therefore bottle to bottle, making it a great whiskey to share in side-by-side comparisons with whiskey-loving friends.