Willett Family Estate Small Batch Rye (2 Year) – Review

Its ironic that I originally touted this blog to exclusively feature food, cocktails restaurants and BOURBON reviews, yet, the first whiskey I’m going to review is a rye from Willett Distillery in Bardstown, KY.  I first bought and tasted this rye when I still lived in Orlando, FL, it was my very first ‘grown-up’ whiskey whose name didn’t end with “Beam”, “Daniels” or “…tucky Gentleman”.  This whiskey also happened to be the first Rye Whiskey I have ever had.  After my first sip, I was hooked.

So what is the difference between a Rye and a Bourbon, you ask? It’s important to know what Bourbon consists of first:

(Source: http://www.abarabove.com/bourbon-vs-rye/)

Bourbon Regulations

  1. Must be made inside of the United States. One of the most common misconceptions about Bourbon is that it needs to made in Bourbon County.
  2. Must be 51% corn and 49% of the rest of it can be other grains.
  3. Needs to be aged in brand new charred American Oak Barrels.
  4. Can never be distilled to an ABV higher than 80%
  5. When it enters the barrel for aging, it can not be higher in proof than 62.5% ABV
  6. When it enters the bottle, it must be at least 40% ABV. I’m personally not going to be upset if it’s a few points higher

Don’t forget that 49% can be other grains, with the most common types being Rye and Wheat. As a general rule of thumb Rye adds spice, Wheat adds sweetness and Corn brings alcohol.

Rye Whiskey Regulations

Many of the rules for production are similar to Bourbon.

  1. Must be 51% Rye and the rest can be other grains.
  2. Needs to be aged in brand new charred American Oak Barrels.
  3. The same upper limits apply for distillation apply as Bourbon, not to exceed 80% ABV
  4. The same rules for entering barrels applies as well, not to exceed 62.5% ABV.

To be considered Rye Whiskey, it does not have to be produced in the United States.

Note that Bourbon does NOT have to come from Kentucky but does have to be made in the United States.  Rye whiskeys have the tendency to be a bit spicier than Bourbons; which is part of the appeal of the Rye over the Bourbon.  When I taste a new whiskey, I tend to use a nosing glass first, the most popular being the ‘Glencairn Glass‘ easily found online for about $9.  The Glencairn Glass was designed to intensify the aromas within the whiskey of choice, this provides a better sense of taste when sipping.  After the initial tasting in the Glencairn, I enjoy my whiskey over a single hand-cut, clear ice-cube in a rocks glass.  I make all my clear ice at home with no additional equipment; I’ll show you how to make this in a future blog post!

glencairn rye whiskey

Tasting Notes:

Price $$$$$

Proof – 111.4 / 55.7% ABV

Nose – Strong but fragrant, Maple Syrup, Vanilla

Taste – Smooth but spicy, it doesn’t burn like you’d expect it to (in a good way), notes of oak, burnt sugar, black pepper and vanilla. It only got better with the dilution of the ice cube.

Score – 92/100

clear ice willett rye

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  1. Steve Ramos
    September 16, 2015

    I’ve been telling people that bourbon county thing for a while. Whoops! Welcome to the blogosphere friend!

  2. That Guy
    May 2, 2016

    Not to be “that guy”, but contrary to popular belief, bourbon doesn’t have to be aged in American Oak, or even in a barrel. The TTB specifies that it has to be stored in charred new oak containers. Buffalo Trace’s Experimental Collection came out with a French Oak Barrel Aged Bourbon.

    • Miguel
      May 9, 2016

      You’re right! Just looked it up. Thanks for the comment, friend 🙂

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