Whisky Connosr

Willett's Single Barrel Bourbon

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@VictorReview by @Victor

3rd Feb 2011

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Willett's Single Barrel Bourbon
  • Nose
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  • Taste
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  • Finish
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  • Balance
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  • Overall
    94

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The Willett family owned the Willett Distilling Company until they sold it to Even Kulsveen in 1984. The company was renamed Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. in order to make the company name more recognisable as being associated with Kentucky whiskey for the purpose of international marketing. Willett label is used for premium bourbons of various ages, and for some premium rye whiskeys. KBD has not operated the Willett distillery to make whiskey since it acquired the facilities, but instead has acquired and labeled whiskeys produced at other unnamed distilleries. The reviewed whiskey was from barrel #8065, distilled March 28, 1996

Nose: brown sugar, like an aged rum, black cherry, plum, rye spices, subtantial oak, with just hints of vanilla and caramel

Taste: the spices explode all over the palate--this is spicy like the spiciest rye whiskey. The alcohol taste reinforces the spicy effect. The wood is very strong here as well. This is a bourbon of enormous flavour, able to keep company with George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, and Old Potrero. Vanilla, caramel, oak, black pepper, cherry and plum dance and crackle all about the mouth. A spicy beginning gives way to developing sweetness, which becomes all-encompassing

Finish: these enormous flavours just last and last, doing a slow fade together. The sweetness remains strong in the mouth throughout the finish

Balance: Lovely, lovely, lovely! I have had other Willett Bourbons, and have loved them all. This bourbon is quite delicious and quite balanced, for all of its enormous powerful flavour. Even though this premium product sells at a premium price, I have never once heard anyone complain about being dissatisfied with a Willett Bourbon.

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18 comments

@AboutChoice
AboutChoice commented

@Victor, your review has caused me to finally seek out some Willett bourbon. Thanks !

5 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@AboutChoice, I am looking forward to hearing about your experiences with the Willett products.

5 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

"Calypso" is the release name given to this issue of 12 year old Willett bourbon.

5 years ago 0

@Pudge72
Pudge72 commented

What are your thoughts of Willets Family Pot Still? For a similar price would that, or Rowan's Creek 12 y.o. Small Batch, be your preferred choice?

5 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Pudge72, I just had some Willett Pot Still for the first time last week. It is definitely good, but not quite in the same category with the Willett named single barrel expressions. My Rowan's Creek took quite awhile after the bottle was opened for the flavours to completely open up. Now that they have, it is excellent. On a close call I would take the Rowan's Creek here, and, if it seems a little tucked away at first, as many bourbons do, then just give it a little time and it should come around very nicely. At # 14 on the Connosr highest member-rated list, Rowan's Creek currently has the highest rating in our club for a whiskey other than a Scottish malt. It is not among my personal favourites, but it is, at its best, excellent.

5 years ago 0

@Kryonas
Kryonas commented

Where did you purchase this? I've been trying to find a location in Chicago that stocks the willett single barrels but haven't yet had any luck. Also, it seems that they come at a variety of ages and prices. I know the sopressata is aged 18 years and is about $129 but I couldn't find any info on a 12 year.

4 years ago 0

@Pudge72
Pudge72 commented

If you found the Sopressata somewhere...save up and get it!!!! (and message me to let me know where you found it...I know it's not Binny's...) ;) 'Victor' kindly provided a sample at a tasting in December and I marked it as a 'homerun' dram with extra stars for emphasis.

4 years ago 0

@Wills
Wills commented

Calypso? Hm I can't find it on whiskybase. For Europe TWE seems to be the best (and only?) option to get it.

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Kryonas and @Wills, these numbered and sometimes named Willett Single Barrel products are 'private' bottles from private barrels, sold to private businesses, eg Binny's in Chicago, the Jack Rose/Bourbon Saloons in DC, Ace Beverage in DC, The Party Source in Bellevue, Kentucky, private clubs that bid to buy a barrel, or private individuals. The barrel #8065 "Calypso" was bought, I think, by one of the DC organisations, and, as has been typical in this town in the recent past, that organisation farmed out a few bottles here and there to 3 or 4 other restaurants, bars, and liquor stores. These Willett Single private barrels only pop up for sale here and there occasionally. They are usually, but not always, quite lovely. It is hard to find places to sample them before laying out what they cost to purchase, so there is some chance of disappointment. The bottle pictured here in this review is not what the bottle shape and labeling of Willett private single barrels looks like. To see a picture of a wall of Willett private single barrels, take a look at the profile picture of @bourbondork.

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

N.B. The "Calypso" was a barrel yielding 132 bottles; "Sopressata" was a barrel yielding 131 bottles.

4 years ago 0

@Wills
Wills commented

Thx @Victor. Indeed the TWE bottle (though it has a nice pot still shape) offers only 47% ABV. So this bottle seems to be wider spread, more common, no 'private bottling'.

For 130 bottles it sounds like really improbable to get one here in Europe.

Nonetheless nice that you liked it :)

4 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@Wills, you are correct that you would probably have to be in the USA to find a bottle for sale of one of the Willett Private Single Barrel bourbons or ryes.

4 years ago 0

masterj commented

@victor I tried this along with a private 9 y.o. single barrel recently at a tasting. Oh my, these are spicy! Like a hornets nest attacking the tongue! It's not a bad thing but it was an interesting experience. By far the spiciest bourbon I have tried have come from Willett. Challenging drams but they leave you very satisfied with what they have to offer.

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@masterj, it is interesting that you sampled some 'Calypso' recently. That barrel was bottled and sold over 3 years ago now. I found this bottle a little challenging at first, myself, but became more and more enamoured of it. My taste had to evolve to be ready for it, as it did for only a couple of other bottles, such as my bottle of old label Old Weller Antique 107 from 3 years ago, and most especially, Old Potrero 18th Century Style Whisikey. All are favourites now. I still have about half my bottle of Calypso, at this point preserved with inert gas. Willett private barrels do tend to be intensely flavoured and quite spicy, but they include whiskey from a variety of distilleries, including some wheated bourbons and rye whiskeys among them.

3 years ago 0

@GBrough
GBrough commented

You convinced me to try willett single barrel

3 years ago 0

@Victor
Victor commented

@GBrough, there are two types of Willetts at present, the pot still bourbon with the pot still shaped bottle @47% ABV, and the private single barrel Willetts, usually at Barrel Proof (usually @55-72% ABV) which come in standard thin upright bottles, eg from the current profile picture of @bourbondork. All will differ from barrel to barrel, some are so-so, but most are outstanding. Private single barrel Willett bourbons and ryes can be anywhere from 3 to 23 years old, and are only available at a few places, and only occasionally. Binny's in Chicago gets some periodically, as does The Party Source. There are probably no more than a couple of dozen retail vendors that ever see a Willett Single Barrel bourbon or rye. Other than buying a barrel from a distillery yourself, Willett Private Barrels are the closest US whiskey parallel to Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottles. This Calypso 12 yo reviewed above is an outstanding bottle, and the 18 yo 68% ABV "Sopressata" Willett I own is usually my very favourite standard (ie rye-containing) bourbon.

People usually like the Willett Pot Still bourbons too.

3 years ago 0

@GBrough
GBrough commented

I have willett single barrel at bevmo, i dont know the proof or if it is bottled uncut, bevmo has the odd shaped bottle that looks very unique and makes me curious about the gem inside.

3 years ago 0