Willett Wheated 8-year bourbon review: Not your pappy’s purple top

Willett Distillery Wheated 8-year bourbon. Photo by Michael Collins - FanSided
Willett Distillery Wheated 8-year bourbon. Photo by Michael Collins - FanSided /

The Willett Wheated 8-year bourbon has caused quite a stir in the whiskey world. 

Willett Distillery released a purple top this year, but it’s not the highly sought-after Family Estate edition, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Lovers of Willett Distillery whiskeys are sometimes referred to as a cult, as they can be fiercely loyal to everything the 86-year-old whiskey maker releases (yes, even the genie-bottled pot still), especially the Willett Family Estate vertical.

The WFE “purple top” bottles are some of the most coveted by whiskey enthusiasts. These are cask strength, single-barrel offerings that are age-stated and are released in very limited amounts each year. They are also offered as part of Willett’s private barrel program.

But this year, Willett sent an interesting twist out into the marketplace. A purple top bottle not bearing the signature WFE label, but rather a gold embossed black bottle containing a mysterious juice. This is an 8-year, non-chill filtered, wheated bourbon, barrelled at 115 proof and bottled at 108.

"“The first release of Willett Wheated Bourbon was distilled in the early Spring of 2013 and bottled in the Summer of 2022. The proprietary mashbill is barreled at 115 proof in Char # 4 American Oak. We bottle without chill-filtration to preserve the most flavor possible.”"

Once these black gems hit the streets, bourbon lovers clamored to grab one. At a premium retail price of $250, it quickly became a subject of “sip or flip” for those invested in reselling bottles in the secondary market.

Perhaps the notes below will help remove the cloudiness on whether or not this is a product worthy of the purple top hunt and which could rival the similar premium wheated products from Sazerac — namely the Weller and Van Winkle lineups.

Willett Wheated 8-year Bourbon Description

Mash bill: 65 % corn, 20 % wheat, 15 % malted barley
ABV: 54 %
Color: Light caramel, honey gold
Age: 8 years
Bottle Size: 750 ml
Private Barrels Available: N/A

Willett Wheated 8-year Bourbon Tasting Notes

Nose: This is a wonderfully fruity olfactory experience, giving ripe orchard fruit, fig, and dark bing cherry to fill the opening stanza, with an underlying spice mixture that I can only compare to a mulling spice mixture. If I had to characterize the overall nose, I’d call it “fall bakery”. There is absolutely no heat or ethanol present, and it seems to become sweeter as you move deeper into the glass.

Palate: While there are a multitude of notes to explore on the palate, the first thing that really draws attention is the mouthfeel. This is an exceptionally creamy bourbon, partly attributed to the non-chill filtering as well as the percentage of malted barley in the mash bill. The whiskey glides over your tongue like heavy cream. Honey, cinnamon, apple, and brown butter begin the palate, with hints of chai and ripe pear coming in after a few moments. It almost feels criminal to swallow such a nicely balanced sip.

Finish: The creaminess is even more accentuated in the finish of this pour, with the whiskey coating your entire mouth and leaving notes of nutmeg, cherry, and sugar cookie in its wake. While your senses are enjoying those flavors, a mild but enticing chest hug begins to develop and beckons further sips from the glass.

Conclusions: There is absolutely nothing to dislike about this bourbon. The nose, palate, and finish are all superior to most that you’ll find in the marketplace today. If ever there was a bourbon that was made to drink in the autumn of the year, this may be it. Wheated bourbon lovers in particular will quickly fall in love with it. The biggest objection will likely be the premium price, but as more people open and enjoy these bottles, that too will be overcome.

Rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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