Willett continues to be one of the hottest names in Kentucky bourbon and rye. The distillery, starting in 2008, built a cult following with its Family Estate line of sourced whiskeys, the origins of which still remain rumors (at least some barrels probably came from their Bardstown neighbor, Heaven Hill). In addition to Family Estate, Willett also hit the shelves early on with a more widely available bourbon called Pot Still Reserve. Until recent years, this was also a sourced single barrel product, but today it’s a blend of bourbons bottled in small batches from an unknown distillery (or distilleries) with no age statement. It is also presented in one of the most striking bottles out there: a pot still-shaped decanter with a big gold seal on the shoulder that demands a healthy amount of shelf space. We recently cleaned out the shelves at Drinkhacker HQ, so we finally had room to pick up a bottle. Thoughts follow.
On the nose, Pot Still Reserve shows a uniquely fruity bouquet: lemon frosting, ripe cherry, and mandarin orange. Underneath all that fruit are layers of butterscotch pudding, vanilla extract, and a touch of prickly spice. While Willett doesn’t share the source of this whiskey, it wouldn’t surprise me if some of this was their house-made bourbon because the sweet, fruity notes are strikingly similar to the latest Old Bardstown Bottled-in-Bond. The palate is light and a little thin but nicely balanced with classic bourbon flavors: caramel, toffee, candied pecans, spice cabinet, and orange peel. There’s a subtle bit of cocktail cherries on the medium-length finish, which again reminds me of Old Bardstown, but that bourbon has a slightly richer palate, higher proof, and a significantly lower price tag. Pot Still Reserve is solid stuff, but it doesn’t quite live up to its fancy packaging.