A.L. Thompson Willett founded Willett Distillery back in 1936.
Thompson erected the distillery on his families’ old farm and produced their first batch of whiskey - about 30 barrels - on March 17, 1937.
From 1936 up to the 70s, The Willett distillery was operated as a family-owned distillery,
but as bourbon began to lose it popularity to other spirits, and the energy crisis set in, the company switched from producing whiskey to producing ethanol for gasohol fuel. This strategy soon failed, when fuel prices returned to lower levels, and the distilling facilities were completely shut down in the early 1980s.
Martha Harriet Willet’s Norwegian husband; Evan Kulsveen purchased the Willett property and distillery in 1984 and renamed it to Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD). For some time, KBD continued to sell the whiskey that the Willett distillery had produced before it shut down, but as time moved on, KBD increasingly began to purchase its whiskey from other distilleries and slowly started to operate as an NDP Distillery, offering a wide range of different releases and brands. Brands, such as Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, Pure Kentucky XO and Kentucky Vintage, are all said to have been distilled at the nearby distillery; Heaven Hill, and transferred for maturation in Willett’s warehouses. None of these brands carries Willett name, but is being released under their brand names.
Around 2008 Willett introduced “their” Willett Family Estate Bourbons and ryes. (Also sourced from other distilleries/distillery). Especially their ryes, that varies in ages, from 2 – 25 years, have received an almost cult status among rye fans, and “older” bottles are nowadays worth a small fortune.
Willett started renovating the distillery somewhere around 2009 and installs a pot still as-well as a continuous still, and finally, on January 21, 2012, the first barrel was filled in the “new” Willett Distillery. Since then, Willett has been releasing their “own distillate of the Willett Family Estate Rye, and in 2016 their Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond version saw the light of day.
Willett Family Estate Rye – Single Barrel – 8yrs.
Straight Rye Whiskey
Age: 8 Years
Mash Bill: Unknown
DK Price: $140USD/850dkk
As mentioned, it wasn’t until 2012, that Willett once again started distilling their “own” whiskey, which means that this 8 years old single barrel rye is sourced, probably from MGP of Indiana. MGP’s rye mash bill is said to contain 95% Rye and 5% Barley.
Caramel and brown sugar for days, followed by mint, fresh oak, leather and just a dip of honey and rye spices in the backseat.
This rye is a firehouse of flavors, but yet silky smooth with a really nice oily structure. I get an overall taste of espresso right away, with plenty of vanilla to go around, followed by anise, maple syrup and licorice root.
Medium to long finish with orange peel, raisins and the vanilla, caramel and honey notes from the nose finally coming through.
Photo & Review By: Hasse Berg