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Willett Family Estate Bourbon 11 YO, Barrel # 8220

A Vanishing Breed

6 1495

@VictorReview by @Victor

6th Jan 2017

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  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    95

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Distribution of ratings for this: brand user

I thank @numen for the reviewed sample

The Willett Distillery, which had been founded in the 1930s, closed in the mid-1980s and remained closed until 2012. Beginning in January 2012 the new Willett Distillery began producing new Willett branded distillate. During the intervening years Willett and its parent company Kentucky Bourbon Distillers Ltd sourced distillate from various distilleries and aged it themselves, to create bourbons and ryes with their own signature on them. Willett Family Estate Bourbons and Ryes are characterized by their skill in maturation. Typically they taste much better than the distillery brands from the distilleries from which they originated. If I could go back to the year 2008-2009 again, I would have bought a lot of old Willetts. Alas, at that time I was only just about to learn that they existed

Now that Willett is again distilling whiskey the supply of sourced Willett Family Estate sourced whiskeys is greatly diminishing. The reviewed whiskey is an 11 year old bourbon, which is probably a standard, i.e. rye-containing, bourbon. Willett Family Estate Whiskeys are bottled at Barrel Strength

Nose: HUGE and BRIGHT middle-pitched oak flavours, with a beautiful high-pitched sweetness. Loads of beautiful natural caramel, with moderate influence from vanilla. Spicing is very noticeable, both from oak and from rye grain: baking spices, with cloves being the most prominent. This is very beautiful and very powerful. Score: 24/25

Taste: oh my God, this is almost as good in the mouth as it is in the nose; big huge flavours, with more bass notes from wood in the mouth than in the nose. Otherwise, this is a very fine translation of the nose flavours to the palate. Score: 23.5/25

Finish: this remains almost as good to the death as it has been up til now. Very long very strong finish, which stays the same except for gathering a very little bit of bitterness at the close. Score: 23/25

Balance: Excellent in nose and palate; very good on the finish. Score: 23.5/25

Water added: 1) accentuated high-pitched sweetness in the nose, but otherwise changed little, and 2) accentuated caramel on the palate and finish while bundling the flavours and reducing the complexity. The nose is good with water, but the palate is not nearly as good as it is neat

Total Sequential Score: 94 points

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Strength: VERY strong flavours. Score: 24.5/25

Quality: perfect quality with the exception of a little bit of bitterness at the very end of the finish. Score: 23.5/25

Variety: the oak gives a wide range of very delicious flavours, while the rye grain contributes additional spicing. Score: 24/25

Harmony: excellent harmony in nose and on delivery; very good harmony on the close. Score: 23.5/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 95.5 points

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Comment: God, this brings back memories. Back in 2009 it was pretty easy to find and drink bourbons of this quality without spending a fortune for them, if you knew where to look. I've had this sample from @numen for about 4 years now, and I had no idea how well I would like it until trying it today. Nowadays bourbons of this quality often cost $ 150-300, even in the USA. I wish that I owned 3 or 4 bottles from Willett Family Estate Bourbon, Barrel # 8220

Related Willett reviews

14 comments

Astroke commented

I have procured some excellent Bourbon/Rye this year and hard (mostly impossible) to get in Ontario and Willett FE anything still eludes me. My quest continues.

7 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Astroke, Willett F.E. whiskeys are sold by the barrel for private bottling by KBD. I am not aware of any Willett barrels being sold into Canada. Willett F.E. bottlings are rather rare in the USA also. Probably not one liquor store in 300 in the US ever saw the Willett sourced whiskeys.

Now that the Willett Distillery is producing some whiskey again there may be some increase in availability, at least within another 2 or 3 years. So far I have only heard about and tried Rye Whiskey out of the new Willett Distillery. If they are producing new bourbon at the Willett Distillery it will be about another 7 years before they have an 11 year old.

7 months ago 0

Astroke commented

@Victor , Yes, I have no aspirations about the Gift shop bottles or 1 off cask releases, but the 2-3+ year Rye's are within my grasp,so I will keep up the search and look for the mule to bring it to me.

7 months ago 0

@Pierre_W
Pierre_W commented

Many thanks for another informative review, @Victor. I have had one Willett F.E. single barrel bourbon so far, a 6-year old from barrel #110. It was stellar, an easy 90 points in my book! I think I might prefer their bourbon over their pure rye releases. Unfortunately, both are now hardly available in Continental Europe, the rye expressions somewhat more common than the bourbon ones.

It was good to read that your review is based on an old sample from @numen. I have not heard from him in a while - and hope he is well.

7 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Pierre_W, yes, I would love to hear again from @numen myself! He lives about 25 miles from me, but he has always been low-profile. I do know that the main reason he became less active was because of some serious gastric irritation exacerbated by alcohol.

I chuckled aloud when I first saw his screen name. You classically educated guys probably know what "numen" means in Latin.

7 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Pierre_W
Pierre_W commented

Thank you, @Victor, for the update on @numen. It is good to know that he is still around... He has an extensive knowledge of Japanese malts as well as other spirits such as Armagnac and Cognac, and it was always a pleasure to exchange views with him.

I had a total of 8 years of Latin at school and yet had to google numen to find out more. I seem to have forgotten a lot over the past 25 years...

7 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Pierre_W, for me it has been more than 50 years since I first started studying Latin in prep school. One can forget a lot in that period of time.

7 months ago 0

@Pierre
Pierre commented

Great review. Although one of those tinged with sadness because you'll never taste the treasures described!!

7 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Pierre, yes, Willett Barrel # 8220 looks to be out of reach for the both of us at this point, but I should still have some good uncommon US whiskeys left to share with you when I eventually see you. I did plan ahead back in 2010, though almost no one really anticipated what was to come with the whisk(e)y craze which has developed since that time.

7 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

Also, @Pierre, it would be great if we could at some point get illustrations of the Willett Family Estate Bourbons and Ryes. The bottles look a lot different from the distillery distributed Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon bottle which you have pictured.

7 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Pierre
Pierre commented

@Victor I'll add those to my (growing) list of images to illustrate! And I look forward to the day we finally meet.

7 months ago 1Who liked this?

@Victor
Victor commented

@Pierre, this is an amazing and ambitious work which you have undertaken! Bravo!

7 months ago 2Who liked this?

@Pierre
Pierre commented

@Victor ask and ye shall receive! The image has been added. You may need to refresh to see it.

7 months ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Pierre, thank you very much for your quick response to my request!

7 months ago 0

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