This was the second of the two recommendations from LeNell’s last week: Willett’s single barrel expression. According to what I was told at the shop, this is one of the first releases from the Willett distillery in a number of years. That combined with the really interesting bottle shape are what drew me to this selection.
The first thing anyone will notice about the Willett Single Barrel Estate Reserve is the bottle, which seems to be shaped like one of their stills: a long, slender neck, a squat base, and a bulge between the two. On the bottle is some spidery, gold lettering going on with the usual bourbon-fluff of craftsmanship, selectiveness, etc. Thankfully this copy is barely readable so the focus remains on the bottle shape and the actually hand-labeled seal over the cork (mine is bottle 29 of 260 from barrel number 9706).
It’s difficult to find much information about this release online. It seems all information about Willett online is woefully out of date by at least 5-8 years. I suppose this backs up what I was told at LeNell’s – this is really a brand that has been quiet for some time.
To the nose, Willett’s is much more alcoholic than it truly is. This 94 proofer comes across like a 100+. Beyond that there are notes of honey, butterscotch, and some char – a very sweet impression.
Upon drinking however, I was quite surprised. Willett’s develops in a way that I’ve never really experienced before, almost backwards. It begins smooth and creamy, then bursts onto the back of the tongue with a sweet tartness before fading into a long, lingering, oaky finish. Most bourbons have their burst in the beginning, whereas Willett’s delays for a bit longer. The initial sensations are a mild butterscotch and char, but very smooth. Next comes the burst of tart citrus and cherry-flavored candy in the back of the mouth.
A very interesting bourbon. It is not the most complex, but Willett’s manages to distinguish itself from the crows well. I hope to see more releases from them like this one.