- 90 Proof
I know that Willett has somewhat of a cult following, at least with respect to their limited releases and private bottlings, and the more of their products I try, the more I get it. Kentucky Vintage is one of their regular bottlings, though, one that's easy to find and easy to afford. At right around $30, it stands in with the baseline offerings from other distillers, as opposed to the higher-up-the-line products such as Rowan's Creek or Noah's Mill.
Aside from knowing that it's a Willett product, though, I knew nothing about this bourbon going in. I was completely unfamiliar with others' thoughts on the product, whether from reviews or message boards or otherwise. That's probably a good thing, though, allowing me to go in without any preconceptions or subconscious bias.
The nose carried the traditional vanilla and toffee notes one would expect from a Kentucky Bourbon. However, an underlying layer of acetone also hit the nose, characteristic of a younger whiskey. At only 90 proof, I couldn't attribute it to the high proof of the bourbon.
On first sip, though, the first thing I noticed was that it had a higher burn than a 90 proof whiskey should, and it was tough to get past. In addition to the somewhat hidden vanilla and caramel flavors, the bourbon had a distinct white pepper spice that, if it weren't for the other flaws, could have provided a great complement to the sweetness of the bourbon.
After the bottle sat on the shelf for a few days after opening, all the rough edges seemed to disappear. While it still possessed the characters of a younger whiskey--watery texture, lack of complexity--it nonetheless became a much more enjoyable pour. It sweetened up considerably, with the vanilla coming to the forefront. What spice was there previously had almost transformed to a light, smokey and nutty flavor on the back end.
Kentucky Vintage reminded me to some extent of Old Grand Dad 114, primarily in the vast difference in flavor from the first pour to the last. It started rough, but really transformed into a very enjoyable, entry-level bourbon, one that was worth the price.