Distiller: Willett. 110.8% ABV. Age: 2 years. Mashbill: undisclosed. Price: $40.
Willett’s 2-year-old rye got a lot of folks excited when it was first released in summer 2014 — and with good reason. The Willett family has a 150-year history in the whiskey business, though in recent years it’s been sourcing, blending, and bottling other distilleries’ stocks under the moniker Kentucky Bourbon Distillers — including the excellent Noah’s Mill, Rowan’s Creek, Corner Creek, and Willett Pot Still Reserve, among others — rather than distilling itself.
Correction: while resuming distilling itself. The 2-year-old rye marks Willett’s first home-distilled release in 30 years. And it’s one hell of an attention-grabber.
Why release something so young when you’ve got so much high quality sourced whiskey on the market? Because you already know you’ve got something to get excited about.
Willett’s 2-year-old rye is wild and fiery as a barnstorming teenage preacher.
Hot, brash, fiery nose, with rye bread, anise, candied citrus, and maraschino — not the sickly sweet cherries, but the beguiling Italian liqueur that packs herbs and bark and bitters into an elixir that transforms cocktails with a single drop.
But don’t get your Manhattan glass out yet. This one’s a sipper. There is a touch of white dog on the palate, but there’s so much more going on, all supercharged by the youth without being out of control. Fresh-cut flowers, prickly spice, and sweet citrus again. Give it a little water. It’ll expand, but it won’t slow down. Long, complex finish.
Willett’s older sourced ryes have garnered much praise, but between this and, say, their 8-year-old MGP/LDI rye, I’ll take this one any day of the week.
Great things to come here. Great things are here already. – BO