Willett

Willett is a well-known name in the whiskey business and stands for a long tradition of dealing in Kentucky bourbon and even in producing it. Indeed - the Willett Distillery in Bardstown is a very new one and started production in 2012, after the old family owned distillery had been closed in the 1980s.

Information about the Distillery
22 Bottles
USA, Kentucky
-85.465508 37.783284
Active
http://www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com/
Average tasting notes Tasting Notes
Calculated from 42 Tasting Notes
i
Nosing
Sweet:
Vanilla:
Oak:
Spices:
Nuts:
Cinnamon:
Fruit:
Honey:
Almonds:
Herbs:
Chocolate:
Malt:
Peat Smoke:
Orange:
Hay:
Floral:
Wheat:
Oil:
Ginger:
Cherry:
Peach:
Alcohol:
Mint:
Zitrus:
Tasting
Spices:
Sweet:
Vanilla:
Oak:
Herbs:
Fruit:
Cinnamon:
Sherry:
Coconut:
Chili:
Mint:
Malt:
Heather:
Nuts:
Orange:
Wheat:
Oil:
Honey:
Zitrus:
Pepper:
Caramel:
Herb:
Berries:
Grass:
Coffee:
Grape:
Raisin:
Dark Chocolate:
Barley:
Hay:
Tobacco:
Floral:
Ginger:
Cheese:
Cake:
Finish
Spices:
Sweet:
Fruit:
Oak:
Malt:
Wheat:
Heather:
Herbs:
Berries:
Vanilla:
Pepper:
Nuts:
Peat Smoke:
Orange:
Barley:
Caramel:
Oil:
Ginger:
Peach:
Honey:
Cinnamon:
Alcohol:
Chili:
Zitrus:
Details about the Distillery

The Whiskey

The Willett Distilling Company today offers a wide range of different releases. Even though the new distillery hasn’t produced for more than a few years now there are many older releases. The Willett family, operating as “Kentucky Bourbon Distillers” in the past decades, worked together with the Heaven Hill Distillery in their direct neighborhood. As long as there was no own distillery working on the family estate, they let their whiskeys produce at Heaven Hill, stored the barrels in their own warehouses and sell the whiskey worldwide, especially on the Asian market. 

Willett Pot Still Reserve is very elegant and mild Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey produced in pot still manner. The mash for this bourbon consists of a relatively high amount of rye and barley so the aromas of vanilla and oak are supplemented by spicy notes of coconut, cinnamon, fennel and mint.

Not only bourbon but also rye whiskey can be found in the product range of Willett as for example the Willett Family Estate Rye. It is a four year old whiskey with spicy and intensive aromas of mint, pepper or ginger. 

The new Willett Distillery operates a pot still as well as a continuous still so they can produce very different spirits. We can be curious what their first new Willett Kentucky Straight Bourbon will taste like. As they started with their distillation at the new distillery in 2012 we’ll have to wait to 2016 for this new era.

The Production

Production at Willis Distillery combines old traditions and crafts with new technologies. The picturesque distillery looks a bit as if the time stood still here at Bardstown and the old-time firepower might have been the same in the old distillery before, but the infrastructure that was erected here in the reconditioned distillery building by Even Kulsveen, husband of a Willett-daughter, enables Willis to produce at high standards.

The Wilet still house
The Wilet still house

The Mashing

Being stored in a big grain hopper that can be seen by entering the distillery estate corn is given into the two big cookers of 3.000 and 6.000 gallons to be prepared for the mash. A pneumatic grain-handling system and a hammer mill cares for the other grain that together will be the mash for the Willett whisky. Depending on the mashbill that is used the composition of the different grains varies. The old mashbills from distillation in the former Willett Distillery of 1935 are as well used as newer ones. The first mashing that was done here in the new distillery on January 18 in 2012 for example was 72% corn, 12% rye and 15% barley to create a smooth and sweet Willis Kentucky Bourbon.

The Malt Silo of the Willet Distillery
The Malt Silo of the Willet Distillery

The Fermentation

There are seven fermenters of 10.000 gallons at the Willis Distillery in Bardstown. 

The Fermenters of the Willet Distillery
The Fermenters of the Willet Distillery

The Distillation

On the one hand there is a pot still at Willis distillery (1.200 gallons), on the other hand they operate an impressing stainless steel column still. The combination of both enables Willis to create a wide range of different whiskeys.

The pot still’s shape is a bit unusual with its very squat base and the high and thin neck. There are new releases of Willis Whiskey that use bottles created in the shape of this pot still. A column with several plates on the top of the pot still enables the master distiller to create different styles of spirits.

The column still of stainless steel with a diameter of 24 inches holds sixteen distilling trays and six rectifying trays. One of the last ones provided with copper pipes to supply the spirit with contact to copper.

Two spirit safes complete the distillation unit.

The Willet Pot Still
The Willet Pot Still

Filling Building and Warehouses

Next to the distillation buildings cask filling is done in a very easy and basic way as it might have been done in the years of the former Willis Distillery. When the new white oak barrels are filled they are rolled to the warehouses to be stored for maturation.

The rails to the Warehouse
The rails to the Warehouse

The History

When in 1936 the first Willett Distillery opened here in Bardstown the Willet family had lived here for generations. John David Willett, born in 1841, was the first family member to work in the whisky business. He was a master distiller at several distilleries in and around Bardstown where he developed many mashbills the family still uses today. Following generations held the tradition high and in 1936 the brothers Thompson and Johnny Willett founded the Willett Distilling Company. They erected a distillery on the family farm and produced their first batch of whisky on 17 March 1937. 

The Company operated until the early 1980s and many members of the family joined it. Then times went hard for whiskey producers and the Willet distillery closed down.

The Norwegian husband of Martha Harriet Willet, Evan Kulsveen, purchased the property in 1984 and took great efforts to restore the distillery and the warehouses. Wife, son, daughter and son-in-law joined Evan in the company and finally on January 21, 2012 the first barrel was filled in the new Willett Distillery.

Chronological rating history

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