I know nothing about this whiskey except that it was bottled by Willett/KBD but was not distilled by them—as it’s not possible for them to release a 8 yo whiskey distilled by them for a few more years yet. What the source is, I don’t know. Sku, the source of the unusually cleanly labeled sample, probably knows but he’s a surly sort, best not engaged unless you really have to, and a cursory search on Google did not turn anything up. The fact that it’s a wheated bourbon probably narrows the options but not for someone like me who knows very little about the ins and outs of the American whiskey industry. If you know more about this please chime in below.
Also please write in if you know what “1789b” refers to on the sample label. That I have seen listed on some other Willett labels too.
Willett 8 (65.25%; Barrel 1434, 1789b; wheated; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Candy corn sweetness and that’s about it (not a surprise given the strength). Some caramel after a bit of air and some polished oak and some clove too. Gets sweeter as it sits and airs (cherry?). Gets softer with water but I can’t say a whole lot of new stuff develops; not right away, anyway—definitely more expressive though. With more time there’s some orange peel here too.
Palate: A similar story on the palate: it’s more approachable than the strength would suggest but it’s quite tight. Okay, let’s let it sit even longer. After about 20 minutes there’s more fruit (dried orange peel, a bit of apricot) but this needs water. As on the nose, water makes it more approachable but doesn’t really bring out a whole lot that’s new: more wood, more spice, more menthol coolness. After a bit the fruit expands a little with more of the orange peel in particular.
Finish: Neat, there’s a spicy burn and that’s about it. As on the palate with water with a leafy note showing up as well late.
Comments: This is quite nice, with no real flaws, but feels like one of those instances where the gimmicky high strength is a bit of a problem. I think I would have preferred the master distiller/blender bringing it down closer to what they think would be the ideal drinking strength. It would be more expressive from the get-go and require less futzing about with water. I’d hazard that 54-56% is the sweet spot for this but I probably missed it (going under first and then over with my second addition). I grant that I’m probably in the minority with this view: most American whiskey mavens seem to want their whiskey as strong as they can get it. Anyway, I’ve saved half the sample and will come back to it again and see if a different amount of water, added earlier, does anything more for it.
Rating: 87 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!