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It’s a challenge finding anything other than scotch in Taiwan. Bourbon is rare, and rye is utterly non-existent. That’s why whenever friends or family come to visit, I promptly ask them to pick up something that’s out of my reach here. In this case, I managed to get my friend who’s visiting from Shanghai to bring along a bottle of Willett’s Single Barrel Rye 3 years. It’s a young rye with a definite kick, but Willett releases tend to enjoy a good reputation, despite the fact that they are bottlers rather than distillers. Also, apparently they’re quite rare even in the states. That’s enough to pique my interest. This one is from barrel no. 1243.
Nose: Crisp rye. Very grassy. The cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger rye notes are big and sharp. Cherries. Natural, fresh cherries. Vanilla, grass and wood notes seem to work quite harmoniously here. Pine and maple dominate the woody notes. Crisp, sharp, yet inviting nose.
Palate: Creamy, milky mouthfeel. Maple again. A bit bitter in a good way. Intense rye spice, big oak flavours, grass, gentle cherries, vanilla, and some earthy notes. Caramel and almond brittle. The spiciness is tempered by a wonderful, sugary sweetness, which peaks and then smoothly dissipates. Really loving these sweet notes. They aren’t too syrupy or mouth-coating. A lot of action here.
Finish: Long and consistent, with a distinctively creamy appeal. Lingering rye spice and maple dominate, but very little is lost from the palate.
I was taken aback by how good this is. Partly because I haven’t had a proper rye whisky in ages, and partly because it’s so bold and intense. Ironically, the bottle itself looks very elegant, classic, and sophisticated, with a coat of arms and handwritten production details. But the whisky itself is incredibly young, ballsy, and vibrant. Put simply; this stuff is incredibly rich, very creamy, wonderfully spicy, and unapologetically sharp and intense. While water calms it down, I prefer this neat. Victor mentioned in his review of the 4 yo how big the wood flavours are. While they may be more pronounced in the 4 yo, the 3 yo also seems to have profited from what must be top notch barrels. I love the boldness, and I love how this stuff manages to pack in so much intensity in at such a young age, yet still avoids being stinging or astringent. I’m reminded of Kavalan whiskies in the sense that they have managed to infuse their whisky with so much richness and flavour in such a short amount of time, and then released absolutely wonderful cask strength offerings that are neither harsh nor biting. This stuff is genuinely well-crafted. Just wonderful. A new favorite.