Whisky Review #116: Willett Family Estate Reserve 20 Years Old

And so here we are, the very first bourbon review for this blog! I have been thinking of writing a bourbon-centric review for some time now and while the original plan was to review the dependably amazing Eagle Rare 10 Years Old, this expression superseded it simply due to its sheer brilliance.

This week’s expression focuses on a bourbon expression which was distilled sometime in 1993/1994 and matured for 20 years in a single charred American oak barrel (Cask #C45A) before being bottled at an eye-wateringly high abv of 67.85% by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers under the Willett Family Estate Reserve range.

So, let’s jump right into the review!

Willet Family Estate Reserve 20 Years Old (Bottled by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, 67.85% abv)

Colour: Mahogany

Nose: Initial entry presents a rich and full-bodied nose which exhibits hints of wood varnish, popcorn, turpentine, old parchment and cola as well as brown sugar. With time, the brown sugar notes develop further into a demerara varietal and there is a hint of acetone embedded within (quite possibly from the turpentine hints). (23/25)

Palate: Initial entry presents hints of wood varnish, black pepper, a healthy hit of alcohol, acetone and popcorn, followed by demerara sugar. The palate strays true to the nose and the cola hints which were detected on the nose are also present on the palate. A hint of black tea as well as some sage inject a certain astringency to the proceedings. (24/25)

Finish: Long and lingering on the finish, with the demerara sugar hints intermingling well with the cola notes as well as the acetone. Old parchment, vestigial hints of black pepper and a fair bit of oak and black tea bring the proceedings to a glorious close. (22/25)

Balance: A supremely well-balanced bourbon which exhibits all of the trademark hints that one would expect from a well-aged expression. An impressive depth of character and flavour on this expression and the mouthfeel is drying for the most part, which is to be expected considering the provenance. (24/25)

Rating: 93/100

This expression of Willett was sampled at The Auld Alliance for a rather reasonable $31++ for a half dram and of the three expressions I sampled that night (which also included 2 closed distilleries), this was the clear favourite. An exceptional dram which is definitely worth sampling and savouring!

Until the next review, have a wonderful week ahead.

Slainte!

Brendan

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