Willett Family Estate 4 Year Rye (Barrel 33)

90 Very Nice

At under $40, this is actually an outstanding rye whiskey. In fact, at any price, it’s an exceptional spirit, and it shows that great care must be taken by the Willett family when selecting and purchasing their barrels.

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Vital Stats:

  • Age: 4 Years
  • Barrel: 33
  • ABV: 55% (110 Proof)
  • Distillery: Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI)
  • Bottled by: Willett/KBD
  • Availability: Limited
  • Price: $35


What it is:

Willett Family Estate 4 Year Rye 90/100

Willett Family Estate 4 Year Rye 90/100

Willett Family Estate Bottlings are private bottlings of individual barrels owned by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, more commonly referred to as Willett.

Willett has opened a new distillery in Bardstown, KY, but has only been in operation since 2012.  Hence, this and other longer-aged products from Willett were distilled elsewhere and sold under the Willett name.   We have learned that the non-bourbon spirits sold by Willett are produced in Lawrenceburg, Indiana by Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana, which is owned by the Seagram’s corporation.

We’ve already reviewed a 10 year old Family Estate Bourbon that earned one of the highest reviews of the year here on Modern Thirst.  I’ve been holding onto this bottle of Rye for some time, anxiously awaiting a good opportunity to tear it open and review it.  That time has come.  This particular bottle is a 4 year old Rye Whiskey, bottled at barrel-proof, in this case 110 proof.


With the exception of the word “rye” on the labels,  this bottling is identical to the Family Estate bourbon bottlings.

It is packaged in a traditional tall, sloped-shoulder bottle with a cream label. The Willett crest is proudly displayed front and center and the barrel number and proof are listed on a separate label above it. The cork is waxed, and the color of the wax varies based upon the distiller’s whim or the customer’s discretion. This bottle’s wax is forest green. It looks very nice, and will look great on a home bar.

Appearance:Willett FE Rye 4 yr 3

Poured into a Glencairn snifter, this rye is medium amber in color, with some definite cloudiness.


Right off the bat, the spiciness of the rye singes the nose hairs.  That’s compounded by the relatively high alcohol content.  But underneath the spice, there are definite hints of oak, vanilla, and dark fruits.


There isn’t a great deal of sweetness on the tip of the tongue with this whiskey.  Rather, the flavors develop in the middle of the palate as the peppery rye jumps to the forefront.  The fruit flavors begin to develop on the middle palate as well with ripe plums and dark berries showing their flavors.  The back of the tongue gets a solid alcohol burn with the cinnamon rye spices becoming dominant.

Finish:Willett FE Rye 4 yr 4

The higher alcohol content remains evident on this one into the finish as it seems to last quite a long time.  The spicy flavors still dominate throughout the finish, thought there are still some muted hints of plum.  And most surprisignly, considering this whiskey is only aged 4 years, there is a pronounced oakiness to the finish as well.


Willett knows whiskey.  That’s becoming more and more evident with each tasting.  And while they’ve really hit their marks with bourbon bottlings, this rye makes it clear that they aren’t a one-trick pony.    At under $40, this is actually an outstanding rye whiskey.  In fact, at any price, it’s an exceptional spirit, and it shows that great care must be taken by the Willett family when selecting and purchasing their barrels.  That’s a great thing for consumers, and lovers of rye or any spicy whiskey should snag these offerings up as soon as they can find them.

ModernThirst.com Score: 90 out of 100 Points.

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About Author

Bill is the Co-Founder, Editor-in Chief, and official Bourbon-o-Phile for ModernThirst.com, and Founder and Chief Blending Officer for Four Gate Whiskey Company. He is a native of Louisville, KY in the heart of Bourbon Country. He attended the University of Kentucky in the mid to late 1990s. He has also been published on Liquor.com. He has conducted various bourbon and whiskey tastings in cities across the country, and consulted for multiple national labels. He is married with two daughters, and lives in east Louisville. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BillStraub and email him at Bill@ModernThirst.com.