Willett 4 Year Single Barrel Rye – “The Bar at Willett” Barrel #584

Bardstown Rye from Willett Family Estate

Willett needs no introduction. They have made a name for itself and having visited their distillery, it’s worth the trip and indulging at the bar. Any pour you can imagine they have. All of the purple top bourbons and green top ryes line the back bar. Somehow, a barrel designated specifically for the bar as their cocktail bottle, was released for purchase from stores in Kentucky. This sample is courtesy of a very good friend.

In the glass it is seemingly lighter than I expected somewhere in between Chestnut and Oloroso Sherry color grades. I’m unsure if there was any dilution given it’s low 90 proof, but in the shake test the bubbles were very small and immediately dissipated. I sampled this alongside a 4 year small batch bottle at 105 proof for reference and comparison.

The nose screams Willett rye to me but it has a much more fruity note than of the two bottles I compared. Very rye forward with the clove, ginger and pepper spices. Citrus oil and a tinge of bitter pith, like too much taken off in a cocktail twist. Apple and pear peels. Burnt sugar cookies. Anise. Hemp. Creamed sugar. Very slight spearmint scent.

The taste is clearly rye though it’s sweeter than my other bottle. Baking spices are present with a waffle and maple syrup like flavor to it. Chocolate mint herbal quality. Fresh cut summer grass. Lemon zest. Olive oil. Great mouthfeel for only 90 proof.

Tons of flavor on the finish but devastatingly short for what I wanted. Dried tea and tobacco. A dark chocolate bar with bits of dried cherry added. Heavy handed rye spice carries this on the dry side and those spices linger for a bit on the tongue.

I love Willett rye and this bottle is no exception. It’s a tad sweeter than the 4 year batch I have and at 90 proof you can crush this bottle easily. I imagine cocktails with this bottle would pair well with some savory garnishes like basil or rosemary. Cinnamon stick in a hot toddy or even lean into the mint in a Julep. The bar is high for me with Willett’s own rye and it has not let me down thus far.