If you’ve ever wondered if you’ve seen Willett Pot Still – it’s one you can’t forget. If you’re wanting to impress your friends and family with one of the most attractive and innovative bottled bourbons, this one might be it. The question is – will the bourbon live up to the bottle?
Sometime sourcer, now distiller
The Willett Distilling Company began in early 1935. The first bourbon was barreled the following year. Over the years, Willett encompassed a number of brands, including Willett Pot Still, Willett Estate, Noah’s Mill, Rowan Creek, Johnny Drum, Pure Kentucky, Kentucky Vintage – and two Old Bardstown variations – one younger bourbon and one bottled in bond.
Distilling operations continued until the 1970s when production switched to ethanol as a fuel source. Distillation ceased entirely in the early 1980s. The site was purchased in 1984 by Evan and Martha Kulsveen and renamed Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD). For several years, aging stocks continued to be sold. As stocks diminished, the company shifted from a producer to a purchaser of sourced bourbons and bottling the finished product. Over the years, other family members joined in the operations. A visitors center was unveiled in 2011 and in 2016 distilling operations were once again in full swing. Willett now is also proudly featured on the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail.
Before the tasting, let’s take in this incredible looking bottle. While at first glance the bottle may look like a genie bottle straight out of Aladdin, upon closer examination you’ll note that the bottle is a tall, elegant pot still, complete with a seal and gold script. The bottle is so eye-catching in fact that when it was introduced in 2008, it received a double gold medal for packaging (and a gold medal for taste!) at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Adding this one to your bar cart or shelf is guaranteed to catch the eye of friends and family.
Willett is mum on the mash bill, but as a bourbon, this must contain at least 51% corn. Since distilling operations only began a short-time ago, it’s a fair assumption that the bourbon in this delightful bottle is probably sourced. Though the bottle doesn’t disclose the distillery, many have suggested that next-door neighbor, Heaven Hill, is the likely source.
Nose: Lots of vanilla and caramel with lighter notes of spice and a hint of lemon-orange zest.
Palate: More citrus and spice followed by caramelized sugar and oak.
Finish: Medium and smooth with peppery-spice and oak..
Overall: This is a bourbon that lives up to its vessel. While not incredibly complex, it’s well-put-together and carries a nice, overall balance. I used to find this for sale in the mid-$30 range, but now it is typically $50+ thanks to limited supply and higher demand.