This particular bottle of Willett 11 Year Old retailed for $120. It now sells for between $400 to $1200 US in secondary markets. That's at Pappy Van Winkle levels. Welcome to the wonderful world of rare whisky unicorns. If you've looking for bottle number 1 of the total 175 sold, I'm sorry to say, it's in my whisky cabinet and it's sitting empty.
The Willett Distillery history serves as the blueprint for many young distilleries starting out today. Willett both distills their own whisky and also buys barrels of whisky from other distilleries. Unlike most whisky makers that buy from other distilleries, Willett has a long history of buying barrels and their warehouse is truly legendary (read: expensive!). That’s the reason why whisky enthusiasts line-up for Willett special releases like this one.
Willett Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Bourbons are the rarest of these releases, and they're always bottled at cask strength. The seven to nine year olds are more common, and the ten plus aged whiskies are rare. Reviewed here is Barrel No. 438 that's been aged for 11 years and bottled at 58.3% ABV. Thank you to a Kentucky whisky podcast listener for handing me this particular unicorn!
Willett Family Estate releases used to be common place at liquor stores across America. Today, they're a rare sight. Many bottles get purchased directly at the distillery. Their prices have gone up significantly in the last two years. Some releases are so rare, they're unconfirmed old barrels of whisky purchased from the Pappy Van Winkle family.
Willett knows where they purchased this barrel of whisky, but because of contractual restrictions, they can’t tell us. It's also important to note that while these barrels were purchased from an unknown distillery, they were matured for a time on the Willett property. Barrel location within the warehouse matters, and ultimately, influences the whisky bottled.
Willett Estate Bottled Single Barrel
Aged 11 years, barrel number 438, 58.3% ABV
Category: Bourbon, Single Barrel, Cask Strength
Nose: Those yeasty bread notes come through from the start, touch of rustic sweet coca-cola sweetness, fruit candy, with rich caramel notes.
Palate: Nice caramel to start. It's deceptively light before the power of this older bourbon hits your palate. The caramel spreads over the palate along with peppery spice, some liquorice, vanilla, and cinnamon. There's a smokiness from the barrels here that lays wonderfully on the tongue. Nuttiness comes through later on. The finish is pure almond butter. If only all bourbons could have this sort of finish.
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have in its category
It's briefly light, before the wallop of flavour hits you. This was an incredible find at $120, and certainly a four star whisky at that price point. With the craziness of after-market sales, do be tempered with your expectations. It's an exceptional whisky, and there are a lot of exceptional delicious whiskies that are (somewhat) more affordable.
Whisky Cabinet Rating takes into account price and availability
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original