I’ve gotten questions from many friends and co-workers about what bourbon they should buy for their friend/boyfriend/roommate for the holiday season. This is always a difficult thing to judge since some of the best wiskies don’t always make for the classiest gift, but on the other hand many of the gift-like bottles aren’t the most original or demonstrative of taste.
With that in mind, here’s my American Hooch 2008 Gift Guide to help you navigate your social relationships with a properly chosen bottle of alcohol.
The Mantle Piece Bourbon
This one is for that someone on your list who wants something to show off to folks stopping by over the holidays. Willett Family Pot Still Reserve is certainly a fine tasting bourbon, with notes of butterscotch, cherry-sweetness, and honey, but it is most impressive in its profile. Your receipient will not only be impressed with the pot still shaped bottle, but also the wonderfully gurgly noise it makes when you pour. I wrote about it here.
This one might be a little tougher to find, but it will make an immediate visual impression. It will also run you around $40.
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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 It seems all information about Willett online is woefully out of date by at least 5-8 years.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.