Aged for only 3 short years, the Willett Small Batch Rye is quite a deep whiskey with its flavor. With this particular batch bottled at 109 proof it is warm but not as hot as some of the other special releases out there.
Sold in Willett’s basic, wine bottle style, bottle, the simple package is more perfect for such a great spirit in my mind than the more elaborate pot still shaped bottle that is used for the Willett Pot Still Reserve offering. Like the only wisdom for wine, the simpler the bottle, the more time was spent on the product inside.
On the nose this is spicy. Both from the alcohol but also from some spice notes that are coming from the rye itself. Not terribly complex, as you would expect from a young rye, but there are subtle notes of apple and cinnamon in the background here.
The flavor of this is also not particularly complex, but is very intense. Notes of vanilla and mint are in there, but the most dominate flavor is definitely rye and strong woody oak. There is some unexpected sweetness in this as well, I would say butterscotch as it has some smooth buttery notes.
The mouthfeel and the finish of this are both very warm, with a warmth that carries down the throat. Not an unbearable hotness, but distinctly warm.
The addition of a little water brings out more sweetness on the nose and helps to cool the warmth you get in the mouth. I was actually quite disappointed in what the water did to the nose as it almost takes away all of the relatively soft scents that this one had. For the flavor though the water really helped to bring out almost evergreen and earthy flavors that I was unable to detect in the straight spirit.
Overall quite a good rye that can be had for around $40, much less than most of the more special releases, although not quite to the complexity you would expect from a more expensive release.