Kentucky’s Willett Distillery continues to periodically release cask strength, single barrel bourbons under its Family Estate label, with some releases now approaching 8 years of age or older. Last year, we reviewed the earliest of these, an impressive 4-year-old bottling available only at the distillery (and not for very long). Today, we’re checking in on the brand with a look at a 5- and 6-year-old release to see what more time in the barrel has achieved for these highly sought-after bourbons.
Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon 5 Years Old – According to this handy Bourbonr spreadsheet, this bourbon is made with a high rye mashbill (38%) and sees an industry standard barrel entry proof of 125. Even at a healthy proof, the aroma is fairly restrained and there’s minimal alcohol. It’s rather toasty at first with cornbread and dry oak notes, but as it opens, those give way to some dark fruits and a bit of spice cabinet. On the palate, it’s a different story, with a big explosion of sweet and juicy fruits: dark cherry, pulpy orange, tinned pears, and applesauce. There’s some caramel sauce and a healthy amount of spice in the mix, mostly cinnamon with a bit of clove, and an even, but not insignificant, heat warms the back of the throat from the first sip to the generous, fruit cocktail finish. Reminiscent of the higher proof Old Bardstown but considerably more full-flavored. Reviewed: Barrel #4764, Bottle 133 of 171. 128 proof. A- / $120
Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon 6 Years Old – This bourbon is produced from Willett’s wheated mashbill with a lower barrel entry proof of 115. It was available in the Washington, D.C. market, where the importer labels each single barrel with unique, if sometimes baffling, monikers. This one was dubbed “If You Build It…” The nose is honeyed and a little savory with pastry cream, pie crust, and baked apples. It’s complex and surprisingly deep for a younger bourbon with tobacco and chocolate notes emerging as it opens. A bit of cinnamon stick and orange zest add brightness. On the palate, butterscotch and caramel candies dominate with a thick, syrupy brown sugar sweetness that sticks to the tongue and builds with warm baking spice into a generous and lingering finish, accented by a rich orange liqueur note. Reviewed: Barrel #3263, Bottle 65 of 185. 118.2 proof. A / $120