Kentucky Bourbon Distillers Tasting
These Bourbons are apart of the Willett family heritage and they were all exquisite expressions. Some of them include Black Maple Hill, Noah’s Mill, Willet Single Barrel, Johnny Drum Private stock, Rowan’s Creek, Corner Creek, Vintage Bourbon, Kentucky Vintage Single Barrel and more. The distillery in the heart of Bardstown, KY and is currently under going a remodel. The distillery had gone into disrepair for many years until one of the Willet family members decided to rebuild and remodel. They plan on reopening for tours in the future.
In 1935, the distillery was erected on a farm, purchased by Lambert Willett, father of Thompson Willett, founder of the Willett Distilling Company.
Thompson’s brother, Johnny Willett, was an established engineer, who was responsible for the construction of the distillery.
In the beginning of 1936, the Willett Distilling Company produced its first batch of 300 bushels (~30 barrels) on March 17th, 1936.
The newly barreled whiskey was stored in one of the eight warehouses, each capable of holding between 5,000-6,000 barrels (Total capacity 48,623 barrels). The warehouses were built on some of the highest ground in the county, assuring that a fresh breeze would aid in the maturation of the whiskey. Five years after the foundation of the Willett Distilling Company Lambert retired from the Max Selliger & Co. to manage his farm and oversee the distilling process.
The Willett Distilling Company continued to operate until the early 1980’s. The Willett’s had made their mark on the Bourbon industry and it was now time for them to retire. On July 1, 1984, Even G. Kulsveen (pronounced Evan), a native of Hamar, Norway, and son-in-law to Thompson Willett, purchased the property from the Willett’s and formed Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. Even Kulsveen continues to operate at the facility to this day.
Rowan’s Creek Single Barrel Bourbon
Not, just another Kentucky Bourbon Distillers Bourbon! Look, they make great Bourbon and I might as well keep on reviewing them. Rowan’s Creek Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey is hand made in the heart of bourbon country, Bardstown Kentucky. This is a part of their Small Batch collection. This bourbon is a beautiful Single Barrel that is made in very small batches and then bottled with the least amount of filtering possible. Rowan’s Creek is the younger brother of Noah’s Mill, 15 year old Single Barrel Bourbon. They both seem to be a part of the same Mash Bill but, I do not know for sure. Yet, this expression is easily in my top ten of standard production bourbons.
The distiller says: Rowan’s Creek takes its namesake from the creek that still runs through their little distillery. Back in the late 1700’s when John Rowan, a judge and a statesman first settled about these parts, whiskey makin’ was the order of the day. The judge is long since gone but, the creek that still bears his name is still carrying the best limestone spring water that Kentucky has to offer.
To the bourbon:
100.1 Proof Single Barrel
Age: 12 years
Distilled, Aged and Bottled in Kentucky
2011 Gold Medal from San Francisco World Spirits Competition
Batch QBC No. 11-176
The label and the wax upon the topper matches the hue of the stunning liquescent substance from within. They both have a blushing maroon tint to them. The presentation of the bottle is rather simple yet, unique and it even comes with a nice cork topper.
The color is a little darker amber than most bourbons and has just a hint of rosy hue to it.
The first nose right out of the bottle is of oak, light char and corn.
Nose in a glass:
There is nothing more to say other than wonderful! But, I will say that there is some light caramel corn, oak with hints of rye and yeast. Only a hint of the proof comes through with this well-aged expression. The nose is nicely complex and is something that I could simply immerse myself into all day but, the taste is still to come!
Now this is Bourbon! Oily loveliness, this is. The first taste coats your palate with oak (but, not overly so), char, vanilla, rye spice, hint of floral and hidden notes of mint. Second sip has a bit more corn and gives just a slight bit of intensity on the roof of your mouth. The flavors stay on our tongue for a very long time and continue to evolve well after you have swallowed. It is nicely balanced but, not overly complex with unwanted notes. You could enjoy a glass for an hour and not have to refill. That means you could save a bit for me! He He
After a poor showing from Mr. Willett’s Pot Still, Rowan’s Creek revitalizes the title of the best bourbon maker in Kentucky, in my eyes, to Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. This is a fantastic bourbon for the price and just comes in an overall second to its older brother, Noah’s Mill. It is best served neat but, has enough spice that a spot of spring water could open it up a bit. Well, there is not much more to say but, that this is a bourbon that you will just have to try for yourself. But, wives beware, you may just fall in love!
Rowan’s Creek Single Barrel is incredibly balanced with zesty aromatics of honeysuckle and jasmine notes. The mouth-feel is supple but not thick; there’s also a subdued sweetness with just a touch of pepper and no detectable heat. Attractively packaged and reasonably priced.
Willett Pot Still Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon
I know that I have been doing a lot of reviews on Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. but, there expressions are superb. Of course, this one comes from the Willett Family of bourbons. This is their staple Single Barrel Bourbon expression that is normally on the market. This is handmade, well-aged bourbon that is prepared and bottled by the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. Again, some of the best, most flavorful and most complex bourbons in the world come from under the roof this distilleries barrel houses.
Yet, this bourbon is very different and I don’t just mean the Pot Still shaped glass bottle.
To the bourbon:
94 Proof Single Barrel
Age: 8-10 years
Distilled, Aged and Bottled in Kentucky
Bottle No. 149 out of 275 (picked for this reason-It is said that some of the best bottles come from the middle of the batch)
Barrel No. 5535
The presentation of this bottle of bourbon is extremely elaborate. The bottle itself is worth having on your shelf. It has a very nice cork topper and the bottle is supposed to show off their pride a bit but, they may have over done it. Yet, there is a beautiful golden-copper wax stamp on the breast of the bottle with an axiom of, “Willett Pot Still Reserve”.
The color is almost a true amber color with a hint of blood orange.
The first nose right out of the bottle is of sweet corn.
Nose in a glass:
Some barrel char is the first to present itself with just a slight hint of nuttiness and rye at the back.
It has an extremely Low palate intensity and flavor. Hints of nut, earth, dry oak and char are in the final stages but, there is not much to speak of the front. After the glass gasps for a bit, it opens up and the palate intensity increases slightly. A bit of unwanted pungency presents itself toward the end. Only a hint of intensity leaves itself on the top of your throat and on the back of your tongue.
To be honest, this is the first Willett family bourbon that I have been disappointed in. Being mellow is normally a great aspect of a bourbon (this one certainly is mellow) but, it is not a good thing when there is not much to speak of in the way of flavor. The most predominate thing about this expression is the bit of pungency in the end. At times, I cringed.
I have tried to enjoy this bourbon for a while. Mainly, because I could not believe that this was a Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. expression and I did not want it to be a let down. But, I have been let down and there is nothing I can do about it. Of course this may be a bourbon that others really do enjoy and it could be a “Love It” or “Leave It” kind of thing but, I am going to leave it. I am not sure why this expression is not something that I really enjoy? But, I think the bottle is trying to, as they say, over compensate for something!
Please Note: If you want a very good to great expression from the same distillery (for the same price); I would suggest Pure Kentucky XO Single Barrel (12 years old; which has slightly more char and corn than Rowans Creek) or Rowans Creek Single Barrel (12 years old; Seems to be on the same Mash Bill as Noah’s Mill (one of my favorite expressions) and is slightly more oily and oaky than Pure Kentucky XO).
From a single barrel 8 to 10 years old, and bottled in a pot still decanter replicated from the pot still used by the distiller. On the nose, there are notes of honey, butterscotch, and some char. Smooth and creamy sensations of mild butterscotch and char, with some sweet cherry and citrus tartness before fading into a long, lingering, oaky finish.
Vintage Bourbon Single Barrel Bourbon
This beautiful expression comes from the Willett Family of bourbons. This is their Oldest Single Barrel Bourbon expression that is normally on the market but, is becoming more-and-more limited and is sometimes very hard to find. This is handmade, very well aged bourbon that is prepared and bottled by the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. In my opinion, some of the best, most flavorful and most complex bourbons in the world come not only from the Bourbon Capital of the world (Bardstown, KY) but, from under the roof this distilleries barrel house.
To the bourbon:
94 Proof Single Barrel
Age: 17 years
Handmade in Kentucky
“…Vintage Bourbon is selected from the very rarest lot of barrels…”
“…extra years of barrel aging limits the quantity from each barrel to be bottled…”
The presentation of this bottle of bourbon is simple yet, very elegant. The cork topper is bounded by green wax atop the bottle and the age statement (17 years) is proudly labeled across the breast of the bottle.
The color is dreamy and intoxicating. You can almost imagine the flavors and nose right from the color. It has a deep to dark molasses hue with a very rich blood orange tint to it. This comes from the many years of traveling to and from the “Red Layer”. It appearances copiously opaque; showing no signs of over filtering.
The first nose right out of the bottle is like walking into a barrel house on a hot summer day. Sweet bourbon, a nose just like the seeping dark sap-like residue coming from a well-aged summer barrel.
Nose in a glass:
Medium to strong oak char notes in the front with a hint of rye spice hitting the top of the nose. This is a very interesting and complex nose. Hints of corn, honey, sugarcane, light resin, dried oak, earthy tobacco and very light gum-epoxy esters emerge.
Palate intensity is mild to medium and slowly builds to its peak. Then slowly turns from the apex into rich oaky char. The flavors are very complex and finishes very differently from the start. A nice pop of rye spice hits the top or your throat near the end of your palate presence curve. Even after a number of minutes the flavors are still on your palate and still evolving. An extremely subdued sweet corn, wheat and apple hits come out well after your sip. On the front, there is a sweet hint of caramel and then moves to a mild to medium pop of rye and then a very slight hint of vanilla rounds things off.
This bourbon is beautiful, rich and complex which keeps bringing you back to the glass. This Vintage Bourbon is how older bourbon should be. Some older bourbons are still over filtered and lack complexity despite their age. While being relatively mellow, there are a number of palate flavor changes that emerge from no-ware. It is no wonder why “The New York Times” Taste Test gave it 3½ out of 4 starts. Ranking it in the top 2 out of 25 well-aged bourbons tested. Malt Advocate gave it a 92 rating. The Willett Family has many award winning bourbons and has become one of my favorite distilleries, period.
This Vintage Bourbon is wonderful sipped neat but, is very nice with a single ice cube or a drop of spring water is the glass. Even though this expression is only a 94 proof libation its spicy palate presence is much more like a higher proof bourbon. This being said, it reacts well to a spot of water, unlike most Wheated and lower proof bourbons do. The nose changes slightly but, the magic happens in the glass. The bit of water opens the rye into hint of apple blossoms and yeast.
For its age, it is a moderately higher priced expression that you should have on your shelf (and kept to yourself if possible). That is if you like a very well-aged, highly spiced rye palate intensity and nose, flavors of medium yet, not overly woody/oaky char while being very well round and complex. If this is true for you, then this bourbon is truly something wonderful that you must try.
Vintage Bourbon 17 year has notes of molasses, red currant, citrus peel, sandalwood, polished leather, and vanilla cream. Subtle, teasing black licorice and brittle mint emerge from time to time. It is well-balanced, with all the flavors sharing the limelight. This is a beautiful example of mature bourbon.
Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon
This bourbon is made by the Corner creek Distilling Co. and is bottled by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. Bardstown, KY. This is the same company that makes all of the Willett Family bourbons.
The distillery has this to say about their bourbon, “Using only the finest wheat, rye, and corn and aged in oak, Corner Creek is a selection of the distillery’s finest barrels. Smoothed to perfection with pure Kentucky limestone water, Corner Creek is produced only in very small quantities.
The label, an original drawing of Corner Creek by noted artist William Nagle, is one that brings back the good, relaxed feeling of sitting by the old creek, listening to the rushing water while sipping on fine bourbon whiskey. In a slope shouldered bottle, with the art dominating the front label, and a smokey blue neck wrap, the bottle will not only stand out on the shelf, but also on the back bar”.
To the bourbon:
88 Proof Small Batch
Age: 8 years
Aged is New American Oak
An exceptional marriage of the finest selected grains.
“… lightly filtered so that it retains all its complex flavor and is bottled in a natural state…”
This is an extremely tasty 8 year old bourbon and is economical price for what lies within. It is presented in a wine bottle that has a slight green tint to it. The bourbon boons a rich reddish tint while in the bottle. The topper is cork and the label appears to have a hand drawn image of the creek.
The color is beautiful for an 8 year old. Has a golden amber hue with a slight buckwheat honey or molasses tint to it.
The first nose right out of the bottle is of the barrel. Light oak, molasses and rye notes emerge.
Nose in a glass:
Sweet corn and wheat are the strongest notes here. This batch is made up of Corn, Rye and wheat and is interesting that the rye and wheat notes come out at different points. Hints of spiced apples and oak char round things out.
Very nice and very tasty! A nice oaky and nutty after palate presence appears at the end. A few other bourbons have too much “Woody/Oaky” palate presence (i.e. Knob Creek). Corner Creek has a nice balance between flavors and palate intensity. It has just enough flavor to it and with a nice rye/pepper intensity that lingers around on your tongue. Pleasant corn sweetness arrives just after the apex of palate presence.
Best enjoyed neat or right out of the freezer, if you enjoy your bourbon cold (as I do). This bourbon has just enough of a spicy rye presence for you to add a slight drop of spring water but, only a drop. On a side note: If you happen to enjoy 1792 Ridgemont Reserve and wanted to try something with just a bit of char and oaky finish, then I would recommend Corner Creek Reserve.
This expression is a great one and has become a staple of mine for some time and is very nice yet, it could be exceptional if allowed to age a bit longer and bottled at a slightly higher proof. I would serve this bourbon without worry that someone would not like for it. It has a very nice mingling of rye and wheat and some definite nuttiness to round this off. The nicest thing about this Small Batch is that it has Not been raped of its character and flavor from over filtering.
I believe that Corner Creek Reserve out does a number of other 8 year old bourbons; such as Jim Beam Double aged 8 year old, McAfee Benchmark Old No. 8, Old Charter 8 year old and certainly out does a number of other bourbons in it price range. This bourbon would be a great first time introduction to bourbon or could be enjoyed by an enthusiast as well. Corner Creek is just another reason that price does not mean everything in the world of Bourbon and was recently awarded a 92 Rating by the Beverage Testing Institute.
Bright light amber color. Sweet roasted corn, clay, and buttery pistachio praline aromas follow through on a round, supple entry to a dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body with dried fruits, toffee, dusty grain, and oak spice notes. Finishes with a nice lingering resonant earthy, spicy fade. Very solid and old school bourbon to be enjoyed by all.
Pure Kentucky XO Single Barrel Bourbon
The Willett family distillery produces some of the finest bourbons period. Pure Kentucky is certainly one of them. This is a Straight 107 Proof, Single barrel, Small batch, 12 year old bourbon that comes from the heart of Kentucky’s bourbon country. This is a single barrel yet, it is made in very small batches and only a few select barrels are chosen to become “Pure Kentucky”. The distillery is currently under reconstruction and will be reopening for public tours once completed. The distillery is nestled in a small pocket of forest just outside of downtown Bradstown, KY. Many of the Willett family of bourbons are highly acclaimed and hold many awards. Some other bourbons that in the family are Vintage Bourbon (17 year Single Barrel), Kentucky Vintage (Small Batch), Willett Single Barrel, Noah’s Mill (15 year Single Barrel) and many more.
To the bourbon:
107 Proof Single Barrel
Age: 12 years
Small Batch Boutique Bourbon
Original- Small Batch bourbon; handmade in Kentucky
Aged in new charred oak barrels; hand bottled in Kentucky
Batch QBC No. 11-138
The presentation is quite nice. A bronze wax stamp is on the breast of the bottle which reads” Small Batch XO Bourbon”. The topper is a screw cap but, is masked by the blue wax atop the head.
The color has a dark molasses hue to it with a hint of blood orange.
The first nose right out of the bottle is of light char and sweet bourbon corn.
Nose in a glass:
The nose shows off the proof of the bourbon but, there are hints of burnt sugar, very light mint and vanilla and light spice.
Caramel Corn, char, rye are first while dark coco, ripe bananas, cinnamon and hint of heavy cream round this off. This is a simply amazing 107 proof bourbon. It should be enjoyed neat but, a very small amount of spring water or a single ice cube will work well. This bourbon does have a hint of rye spice which responds well to a very small amount water. It opens up the nose and flavor profile.
The palate intensity is nearly zero considering it is a 107 proof but, has a nice bell curve of flavor and palate presence. There is a small amount of cinnamon at first which latches onto the roof of your mouth but, then subsides quickly. Lingering rye and corn stays on the roof of your mouth and top of your throat for much longer than anticipated. Very, very yummy.
Again, another bourbon that is Very, Very smooth from front to back. But, has enough flavors to last. This is a completely well round single barrel. It is very hard to achieve such complexity while being a well-rounded bourbon only out of one barrel. Many bourbons need to be mingled with other barrels in order to achieve what this single barrel has to offer. This is just another shining example of a Willett Family Bourbon that has touched my heart and I will never let it go. Seriously, this is a great bourbon and it should be enjoyed by all. Pick up a bottle the next time you see it. You will not be let down.
Pure Kentucky Single Barrel Bourbon XO is a Small Batch Bourbon made up of 12 year or older Bourbons. With a nose that is lightly sweet with hints of butterscotch and caramel, the palate delivers rich notes of sweet corn, citrus and vanilla with a touch of spice. Enjoy this straight up or with a touch of water for a full expression of flavor.