Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon #438 Holy Moley!

Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon #438. Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey aged for 11 years and bottled at 119.8 proof.

Sorry for taking so long to write anything but I have been extremely busy at work. I got back from Kentucky almost two weeks ago–what an amazing trip. Lots of tours, lots of bourbon “research.”  Part of my trip took me to Willett and of course a stop in the gift shop. I picked this one up (and one for a friend) and just opened it tonight to try for my first post-Kentucky review.  I promise to write more soon!

Beautiful dark golden amber in the iconic Willett bottle.

Nose is sweet butterscotch, liquid caramel, maple syrup candies, cloves and orange peels.  After it has been open for several hours you get a little bit of mossy log and day after campfire residue–all in a good way. All in, it is a really inviting nose and doesn’t give away the near 60% abv.

The taste is even better than the nose. All the flavors on the nose are coming out on the tongue in addition to some wood notes that are incredibly well integrated. The mouthfeel is great, with some nice tannins reflecting most likely a non chill filtered bourbon. The heat comes later in a mild way–really well done and aged to perfection. The finish goes on for minutes.  So much going on here.

Barrel #438 is one special bottle and I’m very excited that it was available when I was at the gift shop. Sometimes you just get lucky. I think this was about $110 in the gift shop and trading for double that or more on bottle-spot. If you can snag one, it’s worth it.   96/100.  I hate to tell you… but only 127 bottles of this exist, and I bought two of them… good luck with the hunting…. if you want a sample, send me a DM on twitter and we’ll work it out.

P.S. I also own another Willett 11yr bourbon, this one is barrel #1631.  They are COMPLETELY different.  This one has much more of a Eagle Rare aspect to it, mushrooms, forest floor… doesn’t have the sweetness or pop that #438 has.  Barrel #1631 I rate a 88/100, very solid, but for the price, Eagle Rare is a better choice.  #438 just destroys the competition.  I didn’t want people to think that I just had a mancrush on Drew or something….

 

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Pikesville Rye #2 of the Year?

Although I was flummoxed by the Jim Murray #1 whiskey of the year, I decided not to be deterred and go on to try the number two. Spoiler alert: I’m glad I did.

Just a little background… This is a Heaven Hill product, with a reported mash bill of 51% rye / 39% corn / 10% malted barley. It is 55% abv and is reported to be aged “at least 6 years.”  Online I’ve read that it has the same mash bill as Rittenhouse BIB, but with higher proof and more aging. I reviewed the Rittenhouse positively a few months ago and was appreciative of its good value.  There is a whole Maryland backstory, but the production has been moved to Kentucky like most brands.

Nice golden amber color in the glass, and a smart looking bottle with a cool cork design on top.

Another sweet candy rye, but instead of rock candy like the Crown Rye, this one has more texture and complexity on the nose. I’m also getting freshly toasted cornbread on cast iron with heaps of churned butter, cinnamon, all spice and cracked white pepper corns.

Unbelievably easy to drink and almost impossible to believe that it is 110 proof.  No water needed here. There is a very nice mouthfeel, good balance and the finish is very long bringing out the spiciness in the sides of the cheeks.

Jim Murray must have mixed up his top ten or something. The Pikesville shouldn’t be top three either, but it certainly is far more deserving than the Crown, even if it is double the cost (you used to get it for $50, but now it seems to go for $60).  The finish on the rye is really what separates it from its peers and earns it an extra point. 93/100

 

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