Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Rye 4 Year Review

In all honesty, I chose this bottle for my review submission to be a bit contrarian. I’ve had this bottle on my bar for a while and when I first cracked it I was not a fan of it at all.

Willett Family Estate Rye Whiskey Photo

In all honesty, I chose this bottle for my review submission to be a bit contrarian. I’ve had this bottle on my bar for a while and when I first cracked it I was not a fan of it at all. In fact, I think I’ve only had 2 glasses at most out if it. I know I’ve poured at least that many if not more from it to give to guests because I didn’t care for it. I went into this ready to write a less than favorable review based off of my past memory and experience. If you know me, I don’t care to admit it, but I was wrong. I’m not sure why I didn’t care for this the first few times around but I really enjoyed it now. I remember it being very oaky and I didn’t pick any of that up this time around. The one thing that I can say is that the previous times I tried this, I used one big cube with it, and I HATED it. The last time I tried this bottle, I had not yet purchased my NEAT glasses and I drank it out of a standard rocks glass with one big cube. I’m not sure the NEAT glass was the game changer but I can say the cube was.

Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Rye Review
Willett Family Estate Rye Whiskey Bottle Photo

Whiskey Name: Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Rye – 4 Years (Green Epoxy Seal)

Proof: 110

Age: 4 years

Barrel Number: 104

How I Drank It: Neat, in a NEAT glass.

My Nose Noticed: Cherries, LOTS of Cherries. Some Vanilla, Cinnamon sticks and a hint of baking spices.

First Sip: The rye spice hits the front of your tongue right away but not in a bad way. You notice the familiar rye tingle but it’s not a burn. The NEAT glass is known for taking away or dissipating the alcohol burn on the nose, but even at 110 proof it isn’t an issue on the first sip. The finish on my first sip was warm but not long. Now keep in mind, when I usually take my first sip of a new bourbon or rye I don’t really dwell on it. I take a sip and swallow it. Much like a cigar, I try not to judge a juice by my first contact with it. With a cigar, I tend to wait until I’ve smoked at least an inch to start to judge it. The first sip was enjoyable for sure, but I wanted to make sure I took my time with this. The cherries that were on the nose were not nearly as noticeable as the rye spice and the cinnamon on the first sip.

The Burn: Once I dove back in for my second sip, I gave it the full “Kentucky Chew” treatment and boy did things change. There was much more of a burn on the tongue but not in a bad or unpleasant way. It was more of a black pepper spice or tingle. I’m not saying I got black pepper spice, just a tingle/spice/warmth on my tongue similar to what you would find with black pepper. I also picked up the slightest hint of orange peel on the finish. The finish is a bit long, I could still notice hints of it on my palate well past 60 seconds of finishing my sip. There is just a bit of oak but not so much that you can really single it out to label it as oaky. There is a bit of mint as well mixed in here with the vanilla. There is a lot going on here and it’s all good.

Mouthfeel: I wanted to add this because I felt it was important. The mouthfeel on this rye was amazing. Silky smooth with almost a thin creamy caramel like feel to it. Similar to the way the caramel in a Cadbury Caramello chocolate bar feels in your mouth when you bite into it.

Neat, Splash or Rocks: I started off neat in a NEAT glass and you’ve already read my thoughts. After writing this, I added a splash of water and let it sit for a few minutes. To me the water seemed to mute the nose considerably and bring out more oak which I am not a fan of. The water also really brought out the mint and overshadowed everything else on the finish. Don’t bother with ice (see Personal Note below).

Share With: Not just anybody you have over. Make sure the person enjoys a good rye. This would be wasted on someone who doesn’t have a real appreciation for a complex and spicy rye.

Worth The Price: I purchased this bottle for $39.95. It is worth the price.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Bottle for sure, Bar if you happen to find it but good luck with that.