Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Whiskey Wednesday: The Party Source Willetts

The Willett distillery was an old, fairly obscure Kentucky distillery that made Bourbon until the 1970s. The old distillery is currently owned by independent bottler Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD), who, despite their name, don't actually distill anything. KBD buys whiskey from other distillers and bottles it under their own labels and for other companies. (You can see a list of their brands on our Complete List of American Whiskey Distilleries and Brands). KBD has occasionally made noises about reopening the distillery and making their own whiskey and maybe some day they will, but for now, all of their whiskey is sourced from elsewhere.

KBD uses the Willett label for their premium offering, a series of single barrel Bourbons. The Party Source in Kentucky is now offering some specialty Willett bottlings, so I thought I would sample a few. Special thanks to Mr. Atomic for the samples.

Keep in mind that since KBD is an independent bottler, all of these bottles could contain whiskey produced by different distilleries. In fact, given the wide range of flavors and styles, I would guess that there are at least a few different distilleries represented (or at least different mash bills).

Willett 3 year old, exclusive to The Party Source, Barrel 1370, 61.55% alcohol ($30)

Very light and caramelly on the nose, almost Canadian like. The flavor maintains its Canadian character; it's very sweet with caramel and fruit, a light whiskey. A bit too fruity for my tastes.

Willett 6 year old, exclusive to The Party Source, Barrel 779, 63.3% alcohol ($40)

Heavy caramel and toffee on the nose. The flavor is a nice, thick, caramel tasting Bourbon with a good, chewy texture. Very pleasant and very drinkable if not the most complex Bourbon in the world...sort of tastes like Evan Williams at barrel strength.

Willett 8 year old, exclusive to The Party Source, Barrel 374, 62.3% alcohol ($48)

Very light on the nose with a faint port wine scent. Very wine-like flavor profile, with the type of fruit you might get in a port. More similar to the three year old than the six.

Willett 13 year old, exclusive to The Party Source, Barrel 3665, 56.1% alcohol ($72)

Very nice nose on this, subtle, complex, with a nice oak to it. The flavor has some good aged Bourbon characteristics (oak and wood) without losing its complexity, sweetness comes in late in the palate. A fine, subtle Bourbon. Nicely done. I should note that The Party Source's tasting notes highly recommend water with this one, but as with most whiskeys, I preferred it neat. I found that the oak flavors dissipated too much with water, and I like some oak in my Bourbon.

Willett 13 year old, exclusive to The Party Source, Barrel 3696, 56.2% alcohol ($72)

Nose is very similar to the other 13 year old, dry and aged. The flavor shows a bit less oak on this one and lots of sweet corn flavor early on with a fair amount of rye spice as well. Very straightforward, but not as intense or complex as barrel 3665.

This was an interesting selection of Bourbons of fairly diverse styles. Overall, I preferred the six year old and Barrel 3665 of the thirteen year old.

I have one more specialty bottling from the Party Source, another Buffalo Trace Experimental, which I will review next week.


fussychicken said...


Great notes!

I didn't pick up any of these, but did pick up the one Willett that party source had that *LOST* proof in the barrel. Haven't opened it yet. Still super curious about it though, because of the strangeness of a bourbon that lost proof instead of gained it. Not sure if I have ever seen this type of bourbon that was then bottled into a single barrel bottling.

Again when we meet up, I'll bring some.

sku said...


Thanks for your comments. I wasn't aware there was one that lost proof. Which was that? Do report on how it is.

As you may know, Scotch loses proof in the barrel while Bourbon generally gains. I hadn't heard of a Bourbon losing proof either but I assume based on numerous factors such as placement of the barrel, humidity and other conditions, it would be possible.