Willett Family Estate – 2 Year Old – Cask Strength – Small Batch – Straight Rye Whiskey | 54.05% (108.1 Proof) $43.99 (Here)
Color/Appearance: Amber and nice looking for just two years. Rye can take on an amazing amount of color very quickly. Natural color and lack of chill filtration, of course. Same classic Willett bottle and labeling. Miss the real wax top. Hope in the future they can find a way to bring it back. No barrel number as it’s now small batch. I also miss the age in years being written out. Wonder if that means they are planning on always maintaining this two year old as a standard expression. Still one of the greatest looking bottles out there. No doubt it makes your cabinet look good. Let’s get to it.
Nose: Fresh rye bread right out of the oven. Half sour pickles. Which, if you don’t know, are the best kind. A little overly bright and spirity but at only two years old that is to be expected. This is an undeniably rye-like nose of cracking spice with gobs of cardamon and black pepper. Someone just walked by wearing perfume, with jasmine, rose petals, sandalwood and musk. A couple of drops of water can reveal the caramel and vanilla underneath. Rather sexy feeling nose. More broadly it feels like a Myrrh incense. Fragrant and exotic, invoking a special moment all by itself.
Palate: For me this is where this rye sets itself apart. A sweet and smooth entry with plenty of spice and wood for balance but surprisingly well integrated. Very nice. The spice from the nose is here but its baked down into something altogether more appealing. Rye toast with honey and a thin glaze of marmalade. A bitter orange aperitif and minty tea. Oak flavored honey drops. Yum. Sweeter and smoother than you would expect and yet all that rye oomph is right there. Usually with a rye it is either cracking rye-ness or something that attains its charms fighting rye’s true nature, sweeter and smoother. Here is a rye that can do both without any sacrifice. A little sawdust wood and un-caramelized char can detract a little but again we are only talking about two years old here.
Finish: Long and juicy with dried Fall fruits, orange and persimmon. Then minty alderwood, clove, and oak. Here the nice mix of power from the nose and the sweetness from the palate meet up to duel it out to infinity. You have front row tickets.
Overall: A new whiskey that really sets the bar for young rye. Bold, rich, and roughly powerful, it screams to you that it is going to age amazingly. But it is also already showing great development on the palate and nose. It has quality and depth of flavor that are truly exciting. I wonder if they somehow have anything older mixed in to give it a little edge. Seems unlikely with the newness of their operation. This first bottle of Willett, in its revived distilling effort, is a milestone. It’s exciting when you get to witness the birth of something. The Willett Family Estate line of whiskey has been one of America’s greatest recent independent bottlers. They have been consistently bringing out so many great bottles that the bar for this release was sky high. For me they exceeded all expectations and certainly have a rye whiskey here that will carry them proudly into the future. Rye whiskey in America is in good hands.