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Willett 8 Year Wheated Bourbon Review - The Infamous Black Bottle "Purple Top"

Updated: Sep 5, 2023


Willett 8 Year Wheated Bourbon - Black Bottle with Purple Foil

It's time to talk about the whiskey that everybody has been going on about since it first released. There seem to be two camps in the wide whiskey world. Those that love the whiskey for what it is and those who despise it for being priced the way it is. Almost nobody I have spoken to has disliked the whiskey inside. Most haven't tried it and just like to repeat what "they heard from a friend". The ugly truth is that quite a few whiskey enthusiasts have admitted that it was just disappointing for all the hype the brand has carried and built over the years. Some have even postured that it's a cash grab for the distillery.


The wheated mash bill from Willett is some of their rarest stock. Having gone to the distillery to pick a single barrel twice now, there was no time in which a wheated bourbon was available for us to sample. In discussions with some of Willett's incredibly small team, I've gathered that a majority of the good barrels that the distillery is producing today are going into their shelf offerings. I can wholeheartedly commit to my own opinion that Noah's Mill is one of the best products on just about any shelf today.


So what the heck are we here for? Oh, right - to see if the whiskey is any good, because that's how I approach all my reviews. I don't consider value or adjust my score according to how I acquired a bottle. It's all about what's inside. Everyone's budget is different, so take the evaluation of the whiskey and apply your own 'value' lens. If a good whiskey is out of your price range, there are plenty of other 5/5 ratings for you to read through. As usual, this writeup is a amalgamation of several individual tastings that allow me to triangulate on the truth. Now let's get on with the show!


 

Company on Label: Willett Distillery

Whiskey Type: Bourbon

Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed proportions of corn, wheat and malted barley

Proof: 108°

Age: 8 years

Further identification: This black bottle with the purple foil was first released in the Summer of 2022

 

Nose: Corn fritters jump out of the well-rested glass upon first lifting it to my nose. Nosing deeper I find darker tones of raspberry skins, raisin and dry oak. A swirl of the glass unlocks black pepper, caramel nut brittle and leather. Hints of cinnamon and nutmeg sizzle in the corners of the glass. Overall the nose-feel is quite dry with little complexity and a distinct lacking of typical Willett character. Let's move onto a sip.


Coming back to the nose shows off subtle barrel funk and more caramel tones. Nosing through late in the glass just shows off a prime example of classic Kentucky bourbon. Great barrel funk proliferates late in the glass. Floral perfume notes suddenly show up in the final throes of whiskey volatilization. The empty glass smells of chocolate, coffee and caramel drizzle.


Palate: At first sip I find classic bourbon notes in light cherry skins, raisin and caramel. Another sip layers in funfetti frosting, plum and many little hints of nondescript bready notes. An extended sip and swish shows off classic Willett bourbon with cinnamon and cherry dominating the array of flavors, but it's as though someone turned the volume knob down to about 3. This drinks well below 108 proof in an unfortunately lackluster delivery. Carefully picking through the notes closer to the bottom of the glass reveal hints of milk chocolate, vanilla wafers and thick raspberry compote. My last sip is satisfyingly simple with cherry, raspberry and creamy caramel.


TL;DR: Classic bourbon that's had most of its complexity blended out


 

Rating: 3/5


Everything about this bourbon is enjoyable but unremarkable. If the Barrell Craft Spirits motto rings "blended to never blend in", one might describe this release as the polar opposite of that sentiment. While I love and respect the whole crew at Willett, I feel like the team bit off a bit more than they could chew with this blend. Ultimately it feels like too many things have been mixed without consideration for making a functionally complete end product, but they have succeeded in making a mainstream, approachable blend at the very least.


Willett Distillery 8 year wheated bourbon

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