Rosemary and I decided to go to Willett Distillery for lunch. We were in Bardstown and we knew that they had recently opened a restaurant at the bar. The bar and restaurant are on the second floor, above the gift shop/visitor’s center of the distillery. We walked upstairs and were happy to find that a couple of friends of ours, John and Carlene, were sitting at a table, having just ordered some food. Carlene was celebrating her birthday with a trip to Willett. We joined them at their table and ordered food.
We saw Evan Kulsveen sitting at the bar and I walked over and congratulated him on his recent induction into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. I also asked him what he recommended to eat. Evan told me the catfish was some of the best he has ever eaten, so I decided that is what I ordered. Rosemary had the egg salad sandwich, Carlene had the country ham and John had the pork loin. All of the food was excellent and I agree with Evan, the catfish was some of the best I have ever eaten.
The food is excellent, but the bar is even better. They have a wide range of Bourbons and Ryes. There must be 30 bottles of Willett single barrels that they have done over the years. Many of these bottles contained whiskey as old as 10 or more years. These are bottles that people have loved over the years, but they were not cheap pours. Some of the pours were over $100 a pour.
They also had a nice selection of vintage bottles. Once again, these are not inexpensive pours, many of them costing over $50 a pour. They were not unreasonable in price and I suspect that the cost of the pour was based upon the price of the bottle. Vintage whiskeys are getting harder to find and cost a lot more when you do find a bottle for sale. Of course, they had a full range of their standard bottles of whiskey and they were very reasonably priced with many of them being under $10 a pour.
Rosemary had a Manhattan made with Willett Rye. I had a vintage pour of Mellowmash. John had a pour of the Noah’s Mill. Carlene was driving and had already done the tasting after the tour, so she did not order a drink for herself. Rosemary declared the Manhattan very good. The Mellowmash was just as I remembered it. This was Buddy Thompson’s favorite whiskey when he owned Glenmore and I can see why he loved it so much. Noah’s Mill is always an excellent pour. The Bourbons were served neat in whiskey tasting glasses. The pours were a full two ounces. The bar staff is very knowledgeable and the service was excellent.
I would give the Bar at Willett 4 points for selection. They may focus on their brands, but there is a wide selection of these as well as many vintage bottles. I would give them 2 more points for having whiskey tasting glasses for neat pours and 2 more points for a well-trained staff. The general atmosphere of the place was friendly and welcoming and deserves another 2 points. The fact that they serve excellent food is worth another point and another point is gained because Evan and his son Drew were there talking with everyone in the bar and making everyone welcome. That gives them a total of 12 points. I highly recommend spending some time in the bar and enjoying the food.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller