The Willett Distillery in Bardstown Kentucky has a fine history producing whiskey since the repeal of Prohibition in the 1930s. More recently, the distillery was renovated and restarted by the Kulsveen branch of the family and they have built a lovely distillery that is a fabulous tourist destination. The first Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye Whiskey to be distilled at Willett, aged two years, was released in 2015. The current expression is four years old. 

We picked up a bottle of it at the Willett Distillery Gift Shop for review and Matt and I sat down and tasted it. Here are our tasting notes.

Willett Family Estate 4 Year Small Batch Straight Rye

Proof: 113

Age: 4 Years Old


  • Mike: Rye grass, vanilla, apricots, baking spices and oak wood.
  • Matt: Caramel, banana leaf and ginger spice.


  • Mike: Rye grass, vanilla, menthol, apricots, cinnamon, nutmeg and oak. Tasted with a dried cranberry enhances the menthol and brings out pepper spice. Tasted with a pecan brings out caramel and pepper spice.
  • Matt: Rye grass, mint, oak, caramel, chocolate and ginger root. The dried cranberry made no change to the taste. The pecan made the whiskey taste like an Andes mint.


  • Mike: Rye grass, oak, spice and lingering vanilla. The dried cranberry made the finish longer with oak and pepper and lingering menthol. The pecan made the finish longer with oak and spice.
  • Matt: Oak, mint and caramel. The dried cranberry enhanced the mint and chocolate flavors. The pecan brought out oak, mint and rich chocolate.

I would pair this Rye whiskey with an old favorite, the Ferio Tego Timeless Panamericana Gordo. This is the same cigar I smoked with the 3 Year Old Willett Rye back in 2018. (Previously made by Nat Sherman, now made by Ferio Tego). The rich tobacco smoke with coffee, vanilla and some light cedar spice also has notes of fruit and baking spices. I expect the smoke will bring forward the caramel flavor in the rye and make an excellent pairing. 

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller