I've tried the Willett Family Estate bourbons previously, but I had never had the opportunity to try one of their ryes. So, when I went to the store looking for something special and the clerk informed me they had the Willett 6 and 8-year ryes behind the counter, I had to give it a go.
Interestingly, it was a tougher choice between the 6 and the 8 than one would initially think. Aside from the age, the 8 year was not distilled by Willett, but rather sourced from MGP, whereas the 6 year was their own juice. Tough call to make, but I went with the 8 year for no particular reason at all, figuring I've had plenty of good, sourced whiskey--no reason to hold that against the 8-year.
While I didn't try the 6-year, I'm glad I made the choice I did, as this is hands-down the best rye I've ever tasted! At 117.6 proof, it certainly packs a punch, and the punch definitely hits you up front. But, just as quickly as it hits you, it fades to one of the most complex and tastiest whiskey's I've had in a long time.
This rye was the perfect blend of spice and sweet. Up front it had the traditional rye spice, with a black licorice note to it--pretty traditional in that respect.
However, that spice faded into a very sweet (like sweet corn kind of sweet), buttery and yet minty flavor that coated the mouth and throat. It may seem like a weird combination, but it tasted amazing, and it seemed to linger forever, making me yearn and salivate for the next sip.
As the bottle sat open for a bit, the alcohol burn seemed to fade a bit, and the combination of flavors seemed to blend a little better, becoming less distinct individually and taking on its own flavor that was very much like a not-as-sweet root beer. Interestingly, rather than up front, I noticed the black licorice flavor more on the back end as I got towards the end of the bottle.
Ultimately, I've had a nice run with the last couple bottles I've finished, as this is easily one of my top whiskey's ever. Unfortunately it's not one I'm likely to run across again, but I won't hesitate for a second to grab future Willett Family Estate ryes when I can find them.