Willett Straight Rye Whiskey

09 Jun

This is a crackerjack Rye. Costco has it for $32.99 as I wrote recently. You may not be lucky enough to live near such a Costco, but I even think it’s worth paying more for this whiskey. If you find it for less, please leave a comment on this blog post!

The facts of this whiskey are these:

  1. Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Rye
  2. Aged in hand-selected white oak barrels for 3 years
  3. Hand bottled from barrel number 38
  4. Bottle 111 of 216 (from that barrel)
  5. 55% ABV (110 proof)
  6. Distilled in Indiana, bottled in Kentucky
  7. Product of The Willett Distillery, Bardstown, KY

They don’t mention that the barrels are charred, and they don’t say ex-Bourbon, and I think the aromas and flavors bear those guesses out. [Turns out I was wrong…see the comments: The barrels were charred.] You get nice wood notes, but only very light vanilla or caramel notess that are commonly associated with ex-Bourbon barrels. The light touch of the oak could partly be due to the fact that it was only in wood for 3 years, but many Bourbons are in wood for that long and present a much stronger/sweeter flavor profile which is often heavy on the vanilla.

The nose was interesting: Many layers of smells. My first impression was lavender or some similar floral scent. Not overpowering, very pleasant. Over time, the nose evolved (as the alcohol evaporated?) and revealed wood notes but not the typical “Bourbon” oak notes (i.e., vanilla, caramel, etc.). The flavor was what really got me going.

You know that there are many kinds of cinnamon. I had a strong reaction to one of the dominant flavors as “cinnamon” as soon as I tried it. But it wasn’t *just* cinnamon. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but there was some aspect I wasn’t getting. Then it hit me: It was very specifically not baking cinnamon but rather atomic fireballs. Or Big Red Gum. It was cinnamon *oil* that I was getting. Way cool. 🙂

The flavor also had the expected spiciness of Rye whiskey, including black pepper, rye seeds (which melds with the other aromas to make the smell of baking or proofing rye bread….mmmmm) and ginger and maybe wintergreen. The last was very hard to detect for me.

The finish was pretty long for a $33 Rye. There is a lot going on and I liked it so much I had a second serving. Don’t worry, I usually only have servings that are half what most people consider a serving (common whiskey servings are 1.5-2 oz.; I usually have 0.75 oz.). And I enjoyed this at home, with my wife. We put our heads together and, credit where due, it was she who had the breakthrough on the cinnamon. My final comment is that I can’t wait to use this in a Manhattan. The flavors (especially the spiciness) should make for an awesome mixed drink!


Posted by on 9-June-2011 in Whisky2.0


5 responses to “Willett Straight Rye Whiskey

  1. Sku

    9-June-2011 at 10:12

    Nice blog! You’re lucky to be able to get this stuff from Costco. FYI, per US regs, rye whiskey, like bourbon, must be aged in new, charred oak barrels. Cheers!

    • whisky2dot0

      9-June-2011 at 17:49

      Thanks for the info! I updated the blog post with a correction. All the best….

  2. Colin Talcroft

    11-August-2011 at 00:02

    I just finished consuming a homemade Manhattan made with this rye whiskey, Noilly Pratt sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, and a maraschino cherry. I think that’s pretty much the classic recipe–delicious. I’ve read that many bartenders use bourbon instead of rye, but I think that would it make it too sweet. This seems perfect for a Manhattan to me. Enjoyed it very much. I, too, bought it at Costco at $32 a bottle. It was $39.99 a bottle ten steps away at Beverages and More. I’m wondering what percent of the mash in this whiskey is rye? I wish the labels would say….

    • whisky2dot0

      12-August-2011 at 11:13

      I think in order to be called “Rye Whiskey” it must have at least 51% rye in the mashbill. Sometimes (rarely) you’ll see 100% Rye Whiskey, and sometimes 95%, but most times they just don’t say.


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