Willett Family Estate Single Barrel 6 Year Bourbon Review

By: Fork & Stave

Barrel 6464, Youngest whiskey in the bottle: 6 years

Proof: 123.4 Proof (61.7% ABV)

Rating:  5 Barrels (5 out of 5)

I have been a big fan of KBD and the Willett brand name for some time now.  During a recent trip through Bardstown, I decided to visit the Willett Distillery.  Situated across from Heaven Hill, the distillery is located in the beautiful Kentucky countryside.  Dotting the property are the large barrel warehouses, which seem to multiply as you crest the hill and drive towards the visitor center.  Heading directly into the distillery to meet with Terry, one of the distillers and a true Southern gentleman, I noticed that they’ve recently redone the entry into the distillery and it gives the place a wonderful, cozy feel.  One sight that any true whiskey aficionado must see before he or she completes a bucket list is the beautiful, towering copper monster that is the Willett Vendome (patented) pot still.  She is a piece of functional artwork the likes of which you’re not likely to see anywhere else.

willett pot still

Tasting Notes: After letting it breathe for 10 minutes, I tasted this bourbon neat.

Nose: Vanilla, smoked caramel, honey, mint, and cream

First Sip: The first taste starts out sweet, hitting the taste buds at the end of your tongue.  Those caramel and honey notes are quick to make an appearance.  As the whiskey washes over, I detected hints of tea, oak, and sorghum.  There’s a slight spearmint and cinnamon flavor before the finish.  The bourbon doesn’t blow you away, like you might expect at over 120 proof.  It’s nicely balanced.  I added a few drops of water and it helped to bring out more vanilla and caramel, while taming some of the alcohol burn.

Mouth Feel: The mouth feel is somewhat astringent, thin, and cleansing. 

Finish: The finish is long and rewarding.  There is a burn from the alcohol followed by some latent sweet notes, cinnamon, clove, and oak.  I really enjoyed this aspect of each sip.  This is a perfect whiskey for the cold winter months.  It warms you right up.

Summary:  It can be very hard to find, depending on your geographic location, but, for me, Willett continues to be a name synonymous with quality and unique taste profiles.  This 6 year expression is no exception.  While I think it would be interesting to see how it matured after two more years in oak, there are no shortfalls to the taste experience here.  I have a lot of respect for the work going on at KBD and the recently restarted Willett Distillery.  Drew Kulsveen is crafting some delicious small batch whiskey.  After my distillery tour with Terry and the opportunity to see their operation in action, it’s hard not to fall in love with the history embodied in the property outside of Bardstown.  Next, I need to figure out how to get my hands on a sample of their 25 year rye!  Stay tuned…