By Father John Rayls
Have you ever been absolutely taken off guard? Imagine a combat training exercise hypothetically called The Kobayashi Maru (Star Trek fans?). It was designed to measure how a candidate would cope with certain defeat and ultimate death because it was un-winnable by design. Picture the complete surprise of the instructors when the young James T Kirk beat the impossible scenario. It was my exact reaction to stumbling upon the Willett Straight Rye Whiskey Cask Strength bought on a whim because it was the only bottle left. I had tried several Willett offerings and they were all good (Johnny Drum, Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, various Willett versions, etc.), but nothing had really grabbed my attention prior to this straight rye. KBD (Kentucky Bourbon Distillers) was founded in 1935 by John David Willett. The business was sold numerous times as both KBD and the Willett names continued to be used. However, the Willett name began to be used prominently beginning in 2012 and can be easily found today in stores across the country. Willett has actually started producing their own whiskey for the first time since the 1980’s. This particular limited release of the Willett Straight Rye Cask Strength was aged for 3 years in number 4 charred white oak barrels. It’s a single barrel version bottled at cask strength (108.6 proof).
The look in the bottle was slightly different than in the glass with a medium brown appearance with some red tint. In the glass, lighter colors of medium to dark gold were present mixed with brown hues. The legs were long, slow and reluctant surrounding the entire glass. The appearance was a part of my surprise with this experience. It begged to be consumed! The nose is more subtle, but filled with sweet spice, oak and leather with no alcohol burn. The aromas were also a big part of my surprise.
A very nice creamy mouthfeel started off the palette extremely well. It quickly became a whole mouth experience in all of the quadrants. The flavors easily reminded me of a cherry cordial, but not quite as sweet. This was on top of light oak, leather and pepper. In Texas, I was introduced to grilled fruit and brownies with small peppers grown locally. This rye gave me a sense of the fruit/brownie/pepper/grilling experience. The finish was long and luxurious transitioning from sweet spice to pepper, but without losing balance or over staying its welcome. It eventually faded out with cloves and oak leaving a very interesting light minty taste. The palette was another big surprise which pushed the whole experience over the top.
I can conclusively state that Captain James T Kirk would heartily approve of the incredible surprise that Willett Straight Rye Cask Strength brings to the glass. However, this spectacular rye whiskey provided one final unexpected astonishment. The 750ml bottle cost me $39.95. All I can say is quickly get to your local supplier and beg them to find you one final bottle before it’s all gone. It’s good for sipping at any time in any form. As a dessert after dinner drink, it would really shine.