Best American Whiskey (That’s Not Pappy) of 2014: Willett Family Estate Rye (Aged Two Years)
Taste and heritage come together for a whiskey that's worth it.
Yes indeed-y, it’s a bold statement that this Willett baby rye is among the best to come from the river of rye currently flowing in the U-S-of-A. But, see, it’s not just the taste—it’s the heritage, too (you’re a sucker for that, right?): on January 27, 2012, what would have been distillery founder Aloysius Lambert Thompson Willett’s 103rd birthday, the first barrels of this rye were put into storage. Why is that so monumental, so worth noting? Because it’s the first product actually distilled at the refurbished Willett family estate in almost half a century.
Indulging in a bottle of the two-year-old rye is sort of like listening to Elliott Smith pre–“Miss Misery.” It’s special, and feels like a secret. And unless you’re one of those connoisseurs, you’re not going to get caught up in the “white dog” (the phrase refers to un-aged grain spirits—like the New Coke of whiskies, white whiskey) aspect that a few have called out. Willett is just flat-out good. “St. Ides Heaven”? More like rye heaven. It’s all orange and vanilla on the nose, tasting of wood and mint and maple and caramel, with a soft burn finish. I’m telling you, it’s the Pappy of 2025. Or, I could just be drunk. Either way, get it while you can, before it makes an appearance at the Oscars.—Carrie Tucker