WILLETT Bourbon "JACK ROSE" (11 Year)
This particular bourbon was sourced by Bill Thomas, owner of Jack Rose Dining Saloon. The restauranteur / bourbon fanatic got his hands on a Willett Family Estate bourbon barrel and the fine folks at the Willett Distillery bottled it exclusively for his restaurant. The barrel / bottles are aptly nicknamed, "Jack Rose." To celebrate, Jack Rose held a "2,015 in 2015" event to announce its exclusive bottles and gloat about having such an expansive collection after pulling this haul from Willett.
Willett and its acclaimed Family Estate bourbon is perhaps one of the fastest growing names among bourbon enthusiasts. Since Willett is a non-distilling producer (NDP) - I won't get into theories about where their juice comes from, we'll save that for later - this is the only background reference I can provide at this time.
(Un)Fortunately there aren't any other reviews to reference (that I've seen) since this is an exclusive release. So, you'll just have to take my word for it!
Name: Willett - Family Estate Bottled Singel Barrel Bourbon "Jack Rose 2015"
Age: 11 years
Delivery: Neat. (Later, with water).
Color: Deep rouge, auburn.
Nose: Warm butter and brown sugar. Hints of peanut brittle and spice cake.
Impression: At first sip I got a blast of sugar and salt brine. In the middle you get a good amount of oak flavor, finished with vanilla, coriander and orange zest. I will say that the nose was much more pleasant than my first sip impression, which is a pretty rare occurrence in most regards.
Overview: With a fresh palate and at 125 proof, this bourbon packs a punch. I knew I wouldn't particularly like the high heat at first, but of course I had to sip it neat on the first two pops. The heat does't last long though, and the mouthfeel is actually nice, full and rich. However, the proof is simply too high, IMO. This offering would probably be fantastic if it were bottled at sub-120.
Let's add a little water.
I added two droplets of water to what I eye-balled was about 2/3 of the ounce left. Wow. What a difference this made. The bite at the front was dissipated significantly. The mid flavors lingered a little longer on the tongue, and the finish was softer, as expected.
I decided to test the resolve of this bourbon with one more drop of water at about 1/3 ounce to see if it would break. Surprisingly enough, it held up! I was still able to get the profile to come through with almost no heat on the top.
Recommendation: Just add water. If you like high spice, this probably won't bother you. But for those with milder tastes, this will pack too much on the front, and leaves too little on the back.
Grade: 3 - Very Good. I've tasted 15+ different Willett bourbons, and this lacked balance compared to the others I've had. Complexity was masked a bit, although underlying flavors are present, albeit not prominent. I would have given it 3.5-barrels if the proof had been slightly lower. At 115-120 proof this bourbon would be one of the finer 11YO whiskies floating around. It's a shame (or perhaps not?) there's only one place you can get it!