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Willett Family Estate 2 yo Rye

Bringing Back the Sexy

0 1092

@VictorReview by @Victor

11th Oct 2014


  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

My first title for this review was: Impossibly Fruity 2 Year Old Star

Anyone who has tasted a few Willett Family Estate bourbons and ryes knows that they are part of the aristocracy of American whiskey. They have been very hard to find and in great demand for many years. For me merely the sight of that Willett family crest on the bottle label elicits the Pavlovian anticipation of whiskey nirvana. The Willett distillery closed in the 1980s and for almost all of the intervening years Willett bourbon and rye was procured, or 'sourced' whiskey, which was then aged by the Kulsveens. Even Kulsveen married into the Willett family and bought the defunct distillery many years ago. What Kulsveen did with aging of his sourced whiskeys was phenomenal. But that era is transitioning to a new one now

The Willett distillery was put back into production a couple of years ago, and now, for the first time in decades following the closing of the original Willett distillery, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) is selling their own distillery's aged product. This new product is a "small batch" Cask Strength 2 year old Straight Rye Whiskey. KBD reports that they marry two rye mashbills together, but do not give the exact proportions used. It is clear from what they do say, though, is that the rye content is in excess of 60%, and probably on the order of 67%. A # 4 char (heavy) is used. Two years aging is the minimum for a designation as 'straight rye whiskey'. The bottle has been newly opened

Nose: 15 minutes in the glass from this new bottle produces a great sea of dark fruit flavours: like grape wine, black cherries, and plums. There is that crispness from spice which comes from rye grain to enliven the fruitiness, but the fruitiness is the dominant theme. Sweetness manages to emerge to balance the usual dryness characteristic of US Rye whiskeys. A very good nose

Taste: Wow! Big Double Wow! I have never tasted so much fruit in a whisk(e)y this young. This palate is HUGE with the taste of fruit, and both the fruit and the spice are much bigger on the palate than they were in the nose. Fantastic! (Tasting and re-tasting I upped my score from 24 to 25)

Finish: the very big flavours diminish gradually, drying toward the end

Balance: the sweet-dry balance is very good here. This is almost impossibly rich, flavourful, and good for a 2 year old whiskey. I would NOT have believed how wonderful this rye is without having tasted it for myself. I have tasted very very few whiskies remotely as fruity as this one is, at any age. This compares to, but falls slightly short of, the North American release of Macallan Cask Strength for fruitiness. @Onibubba, you were so very right when you told me to buy a bottle of this one

(Water added fused the nose flavours together and fused and slightly diluted the palatal flavours)

The Willett Distillery up and running and producing excellent product, even at 2 years old, is some of the best US whiskey news in many years. For goodness sakes, try some of this if you get the chance

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Benancio commented

@Victor. You have a knack for finding the finest. When I started reading your review and it said 2y, I was doubtful. Macallan Cask in a Rye sounds amazing. I love the Rye and Macallan Cask, I think I'll Vatt the two together. I'd still like you to try the Taos Lightning 5y Rye to see what you think.

8 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Benancio, have you had Willett Family Estate ryes and bourbons? If so, you know that there is magic there, at any age.

Oh, I've had Taos Lightning 5 yo Rye. It is very very good, indeed. I was very pleasantly surprised. I think it is MGP produced, and aged by the local folks. A first quality product and a great rye. At least a 90+ score for me.

I was down there, New Mexico, for my birthday this year, at the end of April, in Taos and Santa Fe. We didn't get to Albuquerque this time. I was heavily amused that it snowed April 28, 29, AND 30th in Taos while we were there. No, SOUTH does not mean WARM...at 7,000 feet elevation plus.

That was the first time we had been in N.M. since 2004. If we plan to go to Albuquerque, I will drop you a line.

8 years ago 0

Benancio commented

@Victor. New Mexico is a wonderful place to live. Being centrally located in the USA makes traveling to each coast easier. Hopefully the next time you make it out here we can share a dram or 4 or 5.

I knew that Taos Lightning is made by MGP. MGP is doing a fantastic job with this RYE.

I think the local folks only bottle it, maybe not even that.

My liquor guy tell me they are being sued because they don't make their own whiskey. It appears they don't have the deep pockets to fight it. The word is they might be coming off the shelves soon. He's telling me his price of $65 is being cut to $25 to clear them out. If that happens I plan to buy all that he has. I'll save you a bottle.

8 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Benancio, please do save me one, two, three, or four bottles of Taos Lightning 5 yo at @ 25 plus tax. That is excellent rye whiskey. Will the old stuff be discounted, the Taos Lightning Ceran St. Vrains's 15 yo Rye? I'd love a bottle of that one too! Drop me a personal message if it looks like you will get product for me.

A very nice gentleman of Costa Rican descent, C. Edgardo Zuniga, aka Connosr member @TwinValley, is now distilling rum and vodka about 5 miles from where I live. He plans to start distilling rye whiskey within a year. I am extremely excited that he may bring high quality craft rye whiskey distilling back to Maryland, after so many years.

8 years ago 0

Benancio commented

@Victor, I defiantly will contact you if it happens. Let me know how his Rye turns out.

To answer an early question, I haven't had the pleasure of any Willett Family Estate Rye or Bourbons. I'll have my eye open for them if they show up in these parts.

8 years ago 0

Onibubba commented

Nice one yeah? I am now on my second bottle, and I have another that will be making its trip home to KY with me for the holidays.

8 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Onibubba, Damned Straight! It is VERY hard to believe that 2 year old whiskey can be this good.

8 years ago 0

Nock commented

I am really glad that this sounds so good . . . and almost jealous that I traded it to you ;-)

I do hope that MoCo still has some left in stock by my next trip up.

8 years ago 0

Robert99 commented

@Benancio I never went to Albuquerke but if you give me good reasons to go like a nice bottle of rye at a cheap price waiting for me, who knows... By the way, I did want to give an answer to a comment you adressed to me before, but I didn't had time and now I don't remember on which discussion it was. Sorry... But I did read it.

@Victor, I think that those who doesn't like rye do because they tasted poor quality rye. I was one of them. But stuff like Old Potrero and Lot 40 convinced me that rye can be great. I hope I will have the opportunity to get one of the Willett Rye to settle me down in this opinion of me. But snce some of those rye are already hard to get, I hope nobody else than you ( and Benancio) is reading this.

8 years ago 0

newreverie commented

Willet hands down makes my favorite ryes. High West is becoming a contender in many regards as well. Ironically both are only just starting their own distilling whilst sourcing most current bottlings elsewhere.

I have a Willet 4yr rye open now and it is amazing. This is from when they had the hand written labels with the barrel/bottle numbers on the back.

I have a 6yr that will be open when the 4 is gone. And an 8 yr that will be open when the 6 is gone. Here in Houston we are flush with bottles of Willet and High West.

7 years ago 0

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