6-8 Year Old Bourbons and Ryes
I had the opportunity this past weekend to participate in a tasting at Jack Rose for the release of their newest single barrel selections. 5 total bottles were offered. A pair of 8 year bourbons, a 6 year old bourbon, followed by a 6 and 7 year old rye. As is Jack Rose’s custom, they had fun names to differentiate each barrel – some evoking flavors and others a feeling or literary reference. Just a fun little touch.
Since I only had a single ounce of each, these are more impressions rather than a proper review. All of the whiskies were poured about ~40 min prior to the tasting so they were well rested. I did add 3 drops of water to see if any changes occurred. The order of my notes are in the same order as the tasting was presented.
Willett 8 Year Bourbon #5219 65.6% – “Changeling”
Brown sugar and despite a very long rest, very present alcohols still noticeable on the nose. Pecans, yeasty bread. I got a distinct milk chocolate and caramel scent like a Riesen candy. Raisin cookies. Creamed sugar. Bit flat for me with “standard” bourbon notes with that touch of lactose. With a small amount of water something just pops. Molasses notes and this really nice dark cherry scent comes out. That milk chocolate turns more towards dark cocoa.
Toffee and a nice hint of citrus flavors. The nutty pecan note I was smelling is present on the palate with a bit more earthiness. It’s like a slightly over roasted peanut. A lot of cask influence at only 8 years. The tannins balance out the more prominent sweet flavors. With dilution that molasses is really welcome. It brings more nutty and welcome spice. More gingersnap, cardamom and cinnamon now.
A dry but sweet finish. Tobacco and barrel char. Dried black loose leaf tea. Shorter than I expected but the baking spices linger around enough until your next sip. Water pushed all of those flavors up a bit both sweet and bitter. However, water also increased that citrus note and it really did wonders to improve the finish for me.
Willett 6 Year Bourbon #17716 64.1% – “Cosmopolitan”
Lots of orange zest on the nose. Burnt cinnamon and spices. Tobacco. Raw demerara sugar. Old time hard candy, cane sugar. Twizzlers with that artificial “cherry” note. Water increases the rolling tobacco notes and reminds me of flavored dip.
Noticeable velvety texture that coats the palate. There is very little sweetness and instead you get the full brunt of the cask. At least the artificial cherry note is emphatically a dark, stewed cherry. When you catch that sweet flavor it’s very pleasant but otherwise the oak dominates. Water empathizes the worst of this whiskey with even more tannic flavors.
A nice nutty quality finish. Earth and wood. The orange zest is all but gone from the finish for me. Water generally made the whiskey worse.
This is the only bottle I would recommend against trying. It was not for me and after dilution, it just solidified that this bourbon was unpleasant for my palate. I really did not enjoy this one. However, when the group was asked which was their favorite, about a third of the room chose this one.
Willett 8 Year Bourbon #5279 68.9% – “Old Bowie”
From the first sniff, I could tell this was going to be my favorite. Best nose of all the bourbons to me. Creamed brown sugar, heavy cream, vanilla bean. It’s cookie dough before you add in the dry ingredients. Maple syrup. Mellow old oak logs. Grassy and herbal. Salted savory caramel popcorn. With a touch of water, some of the same citrus notes came out. Orange and lemon oils.
The overly sweet nose gets a big balance with the oak flavors on the palate. Bold and rounded. Barrel char, tobacco, brown sugar. Orange bitters. Raw sugar. It has a maple Old Fashioned vibe to it. Water did not make much of a difference to me. Maybe a bit more barrel char came out but still very balanced.
Citrus zest and demerara sugar. Leather and tobacco. Mildly dry finish. The barrel char is less noticeable but leans towards the bitter side thankfully. Balances out the sweeter palate flavors you get. Dilution made the orange notes pop even more. Orange blossom water floral notes.
This bottle was by far my favorite of the bourbons. It is ridiculously easy to drink. 3 drops of water had a similar effect of making flavor notes pop like with the Changling. The citrus oils it brought out really helped tie the incredibly sweet nose all the way through to the finish. Kind of a bummer that none were available to purchase.
Willett 7 Year Rye #9526 54.2% – “Eau de Vie”
Back in my wheelhouse with the ryes. Pleasantly grassy familiar Willett scents however lacking that rye “spice” I usually get. From the nose I almost think it’s the low rye mash bill because of that lack of aroma. Honey, clover, floral and yeasty. Dark cocoa and caramel chews.
Very sweet for a rye. If this was blind I’d be tempted to guess bourbon almost. Brown sugar, peanut brittle, butter and cream. Sweetened condensed milk. At this point I added some water and it made the texture silky and brought out some floral flavors like dryer sheets.
Deceitful finish as well. There’s some cereal grains and rye notes but still a lot of sweetness I did not expect. It’s not a fruity note to me as the bottle name would suggest. It’s more floral honey like. Mellow black peppercorn, clove, maybe a touch of all-spice. Adding water really made the rye stand out on the finish. It’s undeniable here and just needed those esters to be coaxed out.
Solid rye but dangerously bourbony to my preferences. Really enjoyable nonetheless and worth a try. If you enjoy the Heaven Hill ryes this one would be right up your alley.
Willett 6 Year Rye #12096 60.9% – “Voyage of the Beagle”
First off, great name. Apple and pear skin bitter nose. Cereal grains and more familiar rye characteristics. Grape Nuts cereal. Significantly less sweet than the previous rye. With water I get this butterscotch hard candy note. Some Chai black tea as well. The baking spices are much more present.
Cardamom biscuits. Not as sweet but the pear fruit is more present than on the nose. Fresh pressed juice skins and all. You get that “healthy” bitterness flavor from the peel. Clove and cinnamon waft up from the glass as you go to take a sip. This is more what I was expecting with the rye. Less herbal than other Willett bottles I’ve had.
Black tea note is back on the finish. Dry palate and not as sweet that I love more. Burnt herbs and slightly toasted spices. Peppercorn, cinnamon, all-spice berries and cardamom. Lemon oils. Water did not change the whiskey drastically but it did bring a bit more sweetness to the finish. It’s like a slightly sweet lemon iced tea now.
The black tea note is one I’ve found a few times in Willett rye and I absolute love it. Some citrus oils here made me really enjoy this from start to finish. More of the fruit was really unique in place of more herbal qualities. This was my favorite of the night and I’m glad it was the final sip I had before heading home.