Willett Family Estate single barrel bourbons and ryes are synonymous with the concept of “unicorn” whiskey. That is, these bottles are rarely released and when they are, they are either sold to private groups or to retailers that make it nearly impossible to purchase a bottle without knowing someone or paying exorbitant prices. In fact, I haven’t seen a WFE bottle for ANY price on a local store shelf in at least five years. Demand far outweighs supply when it comes to this series and I don’t expect that trend to change anytime soon.
There are a few factors in play regarding that status of this product line. Willett Family Estate was first introduced in 2008 and was made up entirely of sourced barrels (Willett started distilling in-house again in 2012). Many of these early barrels were sourced at a time when bourbon was still struggling to recover from the down market of the 1980s and 1990s. With little demand on the open market, tremendous whiskey was available at discount prices. The distillery essentially had its pick of barrels at any age with almost no competition. The brand was established on the backs of these early legendary releases.
All the while, their in-house distilled barrels continued to age and have reached a point today where many of these barrels have reached maturity. As such, we’ve seen an influx of five to seven year old Willett distilled whiskey hit the market. I’ve tried had a few WFE releases that I thought tasted a bit on the young side but in general, I have enjoyed most of the bottles I’ve tried over years. Many Willett barrels have a distinct cinnamon-forward profile that adds some punchy spice to the bourbon, especially at higher strength.
This six year old barrel, titled “Willett Ferrel” is a collaboration pick from Keg N Bottle and the Bourbon Pursuit podcast. It aged on the top floor of the rickhouse and as the story goes, it was over one hundred degrees during the barrel selection process which led the group to choose a Anchorman-themed title and sticker about the heat. This bourbon was bottled at a barrel proof strength of 66.8% ABV and it really shows when you drink it! This whiskey was also from Willett’s original mashbill of 72% corn, 13% rye, and 15% malted barley.
|Nose||Corn sweetness up front, dark brown sugar, root beer float, chocolate covered cherries, orange peel, deep oak, cherry syrup, clove, hint of cranberries. Water brings down the heat a bit and allows the sweetness and spice to be a bit better defined.|
|Taste||Hooooo mama! Hot and spicy, lots of cinnamon, wood char, syrupy, black cherries, vanilla, black pepper, burnt sugar. With water, I find a bit of rye spice and dark dried fruits.|
|Finish||Oak and a bit of smoke first, then dryer and spicier, more cinnamon, ginger, anise, caramel. Water really brings out the complexity of this finish with cola, dark chocolate, honey, and more red berries.|
|Overall Thoughts||This is an absolute monster of a bourbon. That 6 years of aging on the top floor of the rickhouse resulted in an oak-driven, heavy hitting whiskey. This bourbon certainly brings the heat but it also brings tons of flavor along with it. If you’re a proof hound that has no problem with higher strength pours, this whiskey would be right up your alley.|