Awhile back, I had the privilege of a Willett whiskey tasting at Las Vegas' very own Freakin' Frog. In addition to a mammoth beer collection, Frog owner Adam Carmer also has the largest collection of whiskies in the city, and he told me at the time that, of all the whiskey brands available, Willett is his favorite. High praise indeed.
I would have been hard-pressed to prove him wrong in the last few years, as Willett only began distributing in Las Vegas late last year. Their products are now slowly beginning to trickle onto shelves valleywide, and I've gotten the chance to sit down with three of them to date—Rowan's Creek, Willett Rye and the most recent, Willett Pot Still Reserve. The difference between each so far has been ludicrously vast, not just in taste but in alcohol content as well. In the case of Pot Still Reserve, that difference extends to the bottle shape as well—it's shaped like Willett's old copper pot still, which is on display at its facilities in Bardstown, Kentucky. (It's now called Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd., but the Willett name is still used, as it's synonymous with quality for anyone who knows anything about the history of whiskey.)
Rowan's Creek and Willett Rye are both superb products, and they have one thing in common—they're both best enjoyed in small doses. Rowan's Creek tops out at 101 proof, while the rye reaches an eye-popping 110 proof. Flavor? Hell yeah, but casual sipping drinks these are not.
That's not at all the case with Pot Still Reserve, which, while still high when compared to most whiskies (94 proof), has a smoothness and drinkability that had me going back for a second glass—then a third, then a fourth ...
A mini-booklet attached to the neck of the bottle says to expect "hints of vanilla, pine, spice and mint" when opening the bottle. I didn't get that so much as I got caramel, a hint of apples and, curiously, cinnamon. The flavor was said to contain "notes of light oak and hay, with a subtle citrus presence as well." That wasn't far off. The oakiness was first and foremost, and I definitely detected a citrus taste at the end. There's a slight overpowering alcohol kick along with it, but it dissipates rather quickly, leaving your palate ready for the next sip.
This is not the cheapest whiskey you'll ever buy—$49.99 for the 750 ml at Lee's Discount Liquor—but if you want a high-end bourbon you can sip pleasurably for hours, this is a fantastic place to start.