I loved spending time with John and Linda Lipman and when they came to Louisville for a visit over the Labor Day weekend. I had them as guest tasters for the Willett rye. Neither of them claim to be expert tasters and John quickly admits to being susceptible to the power of suggestion when it comes to flavors. However, they both have excellent taste in whiskey and love rye whiskey. Neither had tried this Willett Rye and I thought it the perfect one to start an evening of tasting.
Willett Rye has always been a popular product even when they were sourcing the whiskey from other distillers. The Willett Family Estate brand was always the brand they used during single barrel sales and they always bottled it at barrel proof and without chill filtration. Those ryes were often 15 years old or more. Now that they are distilling their own whiskey thus, the age has dropped but not the quality. They make two different mash bills with one being a “Kentucky Style” rye with just over 51% rye and corn and malted Barley and the other mash bill is about 90% rye and malted barley. This rye is a mingling of both mash bills and they have hit a real sweet spot in the taste. This is a single barrel from the distillery gift shop.
Willett Family Reserve Rye
Age: 3 Years Old
- Mike: Rye grass, vanilla, ripe apples, baking spices and oak.
- John: Apples and dark fruit.
- Linda: Apples, Vanilla and a hint of dark fruit – cherries?
- Mike: Rye grass, vanilla, apples, nutmeg and cinnamon with a hint of oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry enhanced the ripe apples and vanilla but reduced the spices. Tasted with a pecan the fruit became more of a peach or apricot and the spice became peppery.
- John: Apples and cinnamon. The cranberry made the fruit more of a dark fruit and added some tobacco notes. The pecan enhanced the apples and added a coffee note and made the spice nutmeg.
- Linda: The taste was cinnamon, wood and butterscotch. The cranberry added a leather note and the pecan enhanced the spice.
- Mike: Long and dry with oak, nutmeg, cinnamon and a lingering note of butterscotch. The cranberry shortened the finish that was dominated by oak dryness. The pecan made the finish very peppery.
- John: The finish was long and dry and he did not notice much change with either the cranberry or the pecan.
- Linda: The finish was sweet with butterscotch and neither the cranberry or the pecan made a noticeable change.
I decided to smoke a Nat Sherman Pan Americana Gordo with this whiskey. I find the smoke to be a rich tobacco with vanilla and some light cedar spice. With the rye I found the smoke a little more complex with some notes of fruit and baking spices. The smoke really brought forward the butterscotch notes in the rye. This was an excellent cigar and an excellent rye that were even better together.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller