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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.

Superior whiskey.

8 responses

  1. Erik

    Hello, I tasted this recently as well, and have been trying to find it from distributors. Is there any chance that you know who distributes it to bars on the west coast?

    01/31/2011 at 8:19 PM

  2. I’m afraid I don’t. However, this is the e-mail for the distilling house that produces the Willett label.


    Kentucky Bourbon Distillers is a family operation and I’ve never had anything but good interactions with them. If they can’t point you toward the distributor, I don’t know who could. They might even be able to ship it to you directly. I’m not sure how the law lines up on that though.

    02/01/2011 at 10:05 AM

  3. John

    I bought a couple from this very same barrel(39) in Mpls, MN. Every two weeks my local liquor store is getting a case of this in, from a different barrel each time. I’m buying half of each case at $32/bottle- a damn steal for a fine cask strength rye like this. Seriously beautiful whisky.

    03/14/2011 at 1:35 PM

  4. Josh

    I enjoyed a bottle from the very same barrel (39) recently. It stands alone superbly, but mixed with my favorite cocktail, the old fashioned, it reaches a new level. I purchased my bottle in Terre Haute, IN. I will soon be going back to purchase this beauty

    09/08/2011 at 7:43 PM

  5. You can get the four year-old Willett Rye from DrinkUpNY:


    11/08/2011 at 11:08 PM

  6. Chris

    It’s a plumpjack stores in San Francisco

    02/06/2012 at 11:14 AM

  7. Greg

    Carried at BevMo in Cambrian (Hillsdale) area of San Jose too.

    02/15/2012 at 11:40 PM

  8. jenniferfeltham

    We have it at the restaurant I work at, in Downtown LA- Bäco Mercat!

    04/05/2012 at 12:44 AM

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