High Proof Rye Blind Tasting

Willett, Col. E.H. Taylor Straight Rye, Pikesville Straight Rye, Thomas H. Handy

I recently acquired (shout out to Chris Crow) my first bottle of Willett Straight Rye – a recently released 3-year cask strength (111.2 proof) bottle. It actually features a blend of Willett’s high-rye mashbill (74% rye, 11% corn, 15% malted barley) and its low-rye mashbill (51% rye, 34% corn, 15% malted barley).

This particular bottle interested me because it is the first rye batch that Willett has distilled since the early 1980’s. Between the 1980’s and 2012, Willett functioned as a non-distilling producer, aging and releasing bourbon and rye that many believe was sourced from Heaven Hill (which is about a half mile down the street in Bardstown, Kentucky).

To aid in my introduction to Willett rye, about a week after sampling the bottle, I decided I should compare it to some other high-proof ryes. So, I selected three others: Pikesville Straight Rye (110-proof, reviewed here and here), Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye (100-proof, reviewed here), and Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye (126.2-proof, reviewed here and here).

To further enhance the experience, I also decided to arrange them blind. Below are my notes, guesses, and then the reveal:

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