Willett Bourbon Review

Willett Bourbon Review

Our verdict

Willett Pot Still Reserve was introduced as a single barrel in 2008. After 2015, it was changed to a small batch bourbon.
willett-bourbon
Scent
Taste
Price

Overall rating

The longer review

Willett Bourbon is a small batch bourbon, named for the founders of the Willett Distillery. It is bottled in a distinctive still shaped decanter. The bourbon was released in 2008. Originally, it was a single barrel bourbon. Each bottle was sealed with a label identifying the individual ageing barrel, the number of the bottle within the series from that barrel and the total number of bottles from the barrel. 

In 2015, the bourbon stopped being a single barrel brand and became a small-batch brand. The bottles are still sealed with a paper labelling strip but don’t have bottle numbers anymore. It’s also bottled in a decorative decanter that was awarded a double gold award for packaging design at the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. At the same event, it was also awarded a gold medal for taste. 

Willett bourbon bottles

Willett Bourbon is made in Kentucky in the USA, by the Willett Distilling Company, also known as the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. The Willett Distillery was founded in 1936 by Thompson Willett, but the family had been in the whisky business for several generations. It’s still a family business, now with the Kulsveen family at the helm.

Man with willett bourbon bottles

The original distillery was founded on the family farm in Bardstown. Over the years, the distillery was mothballed and allowed to fall into disrepair. In 2012, under the stewardship of Even and Martha Kulsveen (the daughter of Thompson Willett), the distillery was renovated and reopened. Now, they produce a range of high-quality bourbon and rye whiskies under the Willet family name, as well as other labels including Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, Old Bardstown, and Johnny Drum. 

Willett bourbon tasting

Tasting notes.

What to expect

Willett bourbon is an attractive looking beverage, but as we know, good first impressions can quickly change following a sniff and a sip. So, how does this bourbon hold up? 

Smell

On the nose, the bourbon has lots of summer fruits, with some notes of ripe cherry and a touch of citrus. You may also detect a combination of vanilla and dry oak. In the background, there is an aroma of buttered popcorn, with a note of sweet honey. The nose is light overall, but the combination of the different aromas in the bourbon offers enough complexity to make the aroma interesting and encourage you to go back for another taste. 

Man with willett bourbon on glass

Taste

On the palate, honey and caramel flavours combine to form a sweet note against a light hit from spice and some citrus zest. There are also notes of pecan and cedar. The mouthful of the bourbon is relatively thin, however, it does deliver enough potency to be interesting and appealing to drink. At first, the taste is of rye spice, but this soon gives way to a note of cinnamon. As with the nose, the taste has a note of buttered popcorn, as well as the more expected flavours of caramel and vanilla. The finish is lasting on the tongue, with a pleasing note of spice. This bourbon is good to the end of the sip, making it an enjoyable drink. 

Color

The bourbon has a dark colour hue, which suggests it has spent time in a cask made with new American Oak. The light gold shade is appealing, especially paired with the unique and interesting still shaped bottle, with a large cork stopper. 

Willett bourbon barrels

The Whiskey Rocks verdict.

Is it good?

The striking bottle makes this a good pick as a gift for the bourbon fans in your life and makes it a nice addition to your drinks cabinet. The interesting tasting notes make this a whisky that should appeal to most drinkers, although the thin mouthfeel may put off those who are used to drinking a more robust bourbon. 

The price point is a little high, depending on where you buy it, so it may not be the first choice for the more budget-conscious bourbon drinker. 

At 94 proof, this would stand up well to most mixers or being used as the base for cocktails, although you might prefer something at a higher proof for using like this. 

The flavour doesn’t have much in the way of the wow factor, but it is easy sipping as a neat drink. It’s a good all-rounder and compares well against other bourbons from similar distillers.

By Ashleigh Cain

Ashleigh is a key part of the editorial team at Whiskey Rocks. You'll often find her either writing educational articles or reviewing the latest artisan whiskeys. Her favorite drink? Ashleigh loves smokey scotches like Laphroaig, but you'll also often find her with an old fashioned in hand.

Pepperjam Verification

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