Willett 4 Year Rye
Willett Family Estate
4 Year Single Barrel Rye
Kentucky Bourbon Distillers AKA Willett Distilling Company
Let me start by telling you a beautiful story. The other day, Andrew and I were out of state whiskey hunting, as we are wont to do, and we went to one of our favorite stores where we’ve dropped more cash in the last year than I care to mention. We were in the back with the owner, tasting some awesome whiskey, and I asked him, “you don’t happen to have any more of that Willett 4 Year Rye do you?” We had bought two bottles of it from him a few months back and didn’t quite realize until it was too late that this stuff was going, going, gone. He said “nope, sorry I sold out of that months ago.” I figured as much. Now you should know that this is one of those awesome stores where there are boxes in the back piled to the ceiling of new (and old) inventory that hasn’t been put out yet. So while we were talking I sort of started looking around, and I saw a couple boxes labeled Willett Family Estate. I was like “whoa, hey what about these?” “No, sorry, that’s the 6 and the 8 year, good stuff” he replied. He opened the tops and pulled a couple out to show us. I thought about buying some, but the price tag was pretty hefty, so I passed. Then something beautiful happens–I see Andrew pick up a scent, like a well-trained hunting dog, except in this case the dog has been trained to be much more useful because it hunts whiskey instead of birds or other small animals. He starts peering over those boxes and asks if it’s ok to dig a little deeper. The owner, being the super cool guy he is, says sure. Next thing I know I see Andrew with a whole stack of cases of expensive whiskey pulled back onto his chest, leaning precariously like a delicious Tower of Pisa, and he says, “Hey, there’s another Willett box right back there, underneathe.” The owner says, “hmm, hmmm that must be more of the 6 year,” but he humors us, and we move all the boxes to get to this hidden case. He opens it and pulls out a bottle. If you’ve read this far you’ve probably guessed it–it was a 4 Year Single Barrel Beauty. Now’s the part where we try to pretend we aren’t insanely excited and start mumbling over how many we should buy (we’re clearly going to buy the whole case if he lets us). One of his employees was like “oh, we should save at least one bottle for (insert name of some customer that also spends a lot of money there).” The owner thinks and says, “nah, he gets all my good shit, let ’em have it.” So we walk out with a case (6 bottles) of one of my all time favorite whiskeys for $40 a pop. Still smiling about it.
Plenty has been written about LDI/MGP, and maybe I’ll give you my take on it in a later post, but let me just say that now that Willett has its own distillery up and running, you won’t be finding a bottle of this particular rye (this is a sourced 4 year rye from LDI/MGP) on a shelf ever again unless you get as lucky as we did. They should have their own 4 Year Single Barrel Rye coming out in a couple of years, and I’m sure it will be good, but it probably won’t be anything like this bottle.
The nose…the nose! Some noses you have to open up, have to fight for those hidden notes, but not this one. I swear I could smell an open bottle of this from across the room. It’s just blasting out great fumes like a magical olfactory factory. Y’all didn’t know I was a poet? The sweet dill is the most prominent note I get on this nose. Earlier this year a friend of mine made Willet 4 Year Rye pickles (for real) for a party we were hosting, and later on that night we did picklebacks (look it up) with 1990s Old Overholt 4 Year shots and the Willett Rye pickle juice chaser. It was a great night, needless to say. Back to the nose…natural sweetness like black cherries, a little bit of new leather, cinnamon, and a whole lot of rye grain, of course. It’s not a super balanced nose in that the dill is so prominent and over the top, but the balance it achieves with the other notes underneath the dill makes for some seriously pleasant and exciting sniffing.
So I could go on about how much I love the nose, but honestly, the palate is impossibly even more packed with flavor. First sip you understand this is a fierce, spicy, and sweet rye. It’s intensely flavorful, earthy, vegetal, and nutty (cashews?). Dill comes through big time. Toffee, rye (but more grass than grain), wild mint, cinnamon, very subtle allspice, light brown sugar, and of course oak…though the youth of this whiskey allows these other flavors to really jump out ahead of the oak itself. Lots of greens and yellows with a nice bit of sweet brown. Medium-full bodied, long sweet dill, oak, and leather finish. The oak really comes through finally on the finish, just to say, “half the flavors in this whiskey are because of me!”
We got very lucky to find this case. To be able to enjoy this whiskey off and on for the next few years (if we take our time with the bottles) is a gift that I don’t take for granted. I sincerely hope you yourself stumble upon one of these one day, dear reader!
Rating 9.6 / 10
Bought for the ridiculously low price of $39.99 at the only store that I’ll never tell anyone about, even my closest friends. Everyone should have their one secret store, their whiskey goldmine. This is ours. Hey, at least I share the whiskey!