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Handpicked Casks: Willett Family Reserves


So Brett and Pat headed down to beautiful Bardstown to visit Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. They took a lot of pretty pictures. They also tasted a bunch of barrel samples and brought back a few for the handpicking committee to taste. This time, there were a few selections where the choice of specific barrel had already been made for us, and they just wanted us to give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Why do we need so many Handpicked Willett bottlings? Because they’re awesome. Here are our picks, and my personal tasting notes:


Willett Family 4 Year

Bright. Almost citrus peel intensity on the nose, plus stemmy plant notes. Softer on the palate than I’d expect from the nose. Soft, sweet and nice. Legit.


Willett Family 5 Year

Choosing between two 5 year olds, and our winner is the bigger, more masculine choice. Green and fresh, spirited and youthful, with nice fruit notes on the palate. Plenty of corn notes. Candy. Grippy. Alcoholic. I’m the only one that preferred the more graceful, feminine 5 year, and I was voted down. So if you enjoy big bourbon, appreciate this….


Willett Family 6 Year

Soft and easygoing, but stays in the Willett style. A nice mouth full of corn and cherry with a spirited kick and even some tannins that keep the feel grippy. Thumbs up? Thumbs up.


Willett Family 7 Year

Soft, easy nose, with plenty of complexity. Layered fruit, spice, vanilla – wow! On the palate is fruit – strawberry and peach – before the usual grain, spice and vanilla. A little underripe fruit at the finish. Excellent.


Willett Family 8 Year

Softer, easier nose. Light white fruit similar to peach tea, a note that oddly invokes Speyside in my mind. Easy, round and peachy on the palate. Great spice, well built, this is outstanding bourbon. Picked over another 8 year sample.


Willett Family 9 Year

Only one 9 year sample. This has great spice, plus some raisin, plus pralines. And that’s just the nose. Hot and grainy on the palate, and more of that caramel and nut character. It’s a thumbs up / thumbs down choice, and this gets a big thumbs up.


Willett Family 10 Year

Woody and also spirited. Plenty of maple and baking spice on the nose. Sweet on the palate with green fruits like pear and grape, with cherry back on the finish. Nice.


Willett Family Reserve 21 Year Old

We tasted 21 year old from 3 barrels. Brett and Pat were in love with all three, and were toying with the idea of vatting them for some kind of super-21 year bottling. So they had us taste all three:


Barrel #681

Some fruit on the nose, though this sample is the grainiest of the 21’s. There’s some vegetal qualities, and on top of that is delicate frosting sugar. Super round and fat on the palate, with fruit and more vegetal notes. Delicious, but my least favorite.


Barrel #3635

On the nose: woody, woody cherry. Caramel, vanilla, butterscotch. Cherry syrup. Dill and olive. The wood lends a velvety feel on the palate. Even the heat of the alcohol is comforting here. Amazing.


Barrel #3633

Similar to slot 6, with more butterscotch and white fruits like peach and melon. More dill and olive. Again thick on the palate with more emphasis on fruit: peach, and of course cherry.


All three of the 21 year old barrels will make great single barrel bottlings, so we’re buying them all and having them bottled individually.



Most of these bottles are coming to Binny’s soon, so keep an eye out for Binny’s Handpicked Willett Family Reserves! Oh, and one more…


Willett Family White Dog

How often do you get the chance to taste something like this? This naked spirit is all about corn. Grain silo, dusty corn. Also some herbal qualities. Soft and gorgeous on the palate. Perfume, flowers, then an alcoholic punch in the face.



Update 10/25/12: Updated 21 Year Barrel numbers. Oh also, the Willetts have arrived!

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