Willett Distillery - Old Bardstown Estate Bottled Sour Mash Bourbon Review
I love budget finds - I've been trying to review a lot more of them lately, but if you have ever seen my whiskey study, you'll know I have a lot of options on any given day. My love for Willett has grown as I've tasted through many of their 4 year rye 'Family Estate' products, tried all the shelfers, and even picked a barrel of OG mash bourbon. Today we go after another that many would consider a shelfer - though I find distribution a little wonky / sparse in Massachusetts on this one. Though I typically leave price out in how I review and rate whiskeys - I do still personally enjoy a high value product at a reasonable cost, as I'm sure most do. As everyone's budget is different, I like to just tell the whiskeys story on this site without the powerful convolution that money imbues. I'll leave the 'worth' decision to the reader. Now, sweet reader, let's get into this glass!
Company on Label: Willett Distillery
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: Undisclosed, but I sense a good bit of the Willett rye influence on this glass
Age: NAS (minimum 4 years)
Further identification: This is one of the flagship products of Willett distillery that they work hard to blend into quantities that can satisfy the huge demand for Willett bourbon; it comes in as one of their cheapest offerings well below the cost Noah's Mill or Rowan's Creek
Nose: Bright citrus pop - I get that Pinesol-esque candied sweetness that I know and love from the Willett rye line. Star fruit effervescence dances in the nostrils. Light paper, sharp pepper and sassafras show off poignantly. Sharp lemon peel and ginger continue to produce a tingly nose-feel. Time for a sip.
Returning I find more barrel influence of dusty oak, breadcrumbs and hints of caramel. Dark, dry pepper returns as a soft root beer note undulates in the background. I find a unique clove oil aroma all throughout this that took me quite some time to pinpoint. Good sweetness is balanced by an earthy clay. Soft florals weave into the glass at times. The empty glass smells of chocolate, marbled rye, and a treasure trove of honey I can't believe I missed earlier.
Palate: Immediately I am greeted with sweet flavors of candied cherry, fig, and chocolate covered almonds. The palate is cooled by a soft linger of creamy lemon frosting. Another sip builds in a fine balance between creamy and zesty. It reminds me of shaved lemon Italian ice. It's a touch messy as a slew of flavors crash into the palate (usually a sure sign of a blend consisting of many individual parts), but the overall delivery is still quite enjoyable to sit and relax with. There is a soft cooling sensation in the gums, again, much like Willett rye does. Faint bits of sweet strawberry shortcake and trident gum add to the interesting array of flavors. A larger sip and swish produces another big wave of that citrus and bubblegum followed by a much more tart & tannic red grape and blackberry. The linger is long with the pervading lemon peel zest tingling all throughout my mouth. My last sip is sensibly smaller producing strawberry banana, candied mint, orange sherbert and just a kiss of cinnamon.
(Really good; I want one of these on my shelf.)
This ranks very high in the uniqueness category for me; I like it a lot personally for its parallels to Willett Family Estate ryes. If you are a fan of that line I am certain you will also enjoy this pour. There definitely is a lot going on with this pour and it doesn't quite tell a cohesive story, much to my chagrin, as I think this otherwise could possibly reach top marks for me. Regardless - a damn fine pour I would definitely suggest you at least try! I know this distillate can be a little polarizing at times, so this is a great introduction to wade into.