Reviews: Willett Family Estage Rye 4 Year Old

Having previously worked for a 4 Roses top 75 whiskey bar that doubled as a great place to grab a cocktail, I have made a lot of whiskey cocktails including Sazeracs. When available during my tenure at Peter Kern Library, Willett 3 year Family Estate Rye was first in line for a two dollar up-sell when someone ordered a Sazerac. There is something about the light cognac notes and rich fruit that plays well in that cocktail.

The family owned Bardstown distillery first released their Family State line consisting of two offerings back in 2008. The initial releases of both bourbon and rye were both sourced as the distillery was shut down in 1976. It wasn’t until late January of 2012 that the family would reopen the 81 year old distillery.


In 2015 the first Willet distilled family estate rye hit the market as a 2 year cask strength offering. Now that 2018 is in full swing, Willet has proudly began bottling and distributing their 4 year family estate rye. While I was expecting a similar flavor profile to the 3 year product, I was completely blown away by how polar opposite this offering was from the previous expressions.


The offering reviewed is the 115 proof 4 year Family Estate Rye.


Nose 4/5

From the start this rye is incredibly inviting. Heavy sweetness on the front, maple, vanilla, burnt orange, and smoked hickory. As the whiskey rests, the barbecue and burnt citrus evades the nose and the sweetness lingers


Palate 3.5/5

Spice without heat is the first thing that comes to mind with a tertiary pine note. The whiskey lacks a viscosity and mouth feel, but the notes from the nose follow suite appropriately with smoked hickory stealing the show.

Finish 4.5/5

At 115 proof, the heat is still vacant. Sweet chocolate chip cookies begin to develop as the smoked hickory lingers.

Price 4.5/5

If found for under $50 this expression is the epitome of what a $50 rye whiskey should taste like.

Total 16.5/20

If you’re ever in Knoxville, Tennessee stop by Peter Kern Library for a dram and a cocktail.
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Matthew Leonard

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