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Willett C45A, Old Heaven Hill 15, Rittenhouse 25

Hi guys. I have been lurking here for some time, and I learned a lot from this community. For that I need to thank all of you for keeping this reddit going. I am usually too lazy to pen down my thoughts about anything, but a recent tasting session with a friend made me realise that documenting important but fleeting moments can often be worth the effort.

I live in Singapore, where good American whiskey is hard to come by. I started my journey into the bourbon world this March, with a bottle of Blanton's SFTB I obtained from La Maison Du Whisky (LMDW). That was the last bottle of barrel proof American whisky they had, and they have not restocked since then. To add insult injury, alcoholic drinks in Singapore are so expensive. For example, you cannot find a bottle of Baby Saz for less than US$80. Once in a blue moon I came across flash sales at online retailers, but those are usually scotch-centric.

Much of my (limited) experience with high end American whiskey, I got it from an awesome whisky bar called The Auld Alliance. My visit to this bar last Friday serves as an impetus for this post.



Review #1: Willett 20 years C45A

I have had this twice, the first time in May, when it knocked my socks off. This was the last pour from a bottle. I usually nose my whiskey when it is served, let it rest for 15 to 30 minutes (depending on how carried away I am with the other things I am doing), before I carry out a proper nose-palate-finish review. The first time I had this, the nose was amazing from the start, and aeration effected no change to it. The second pour smelled like a different whiskey at the beginning. Then I realised I was drinking from a different, two-third full, bottle. After 30 minutes, things gelled together enough for me to make sense of my first pour. Essentially the notes of my first pour is a super-compacted version of those of my second, give and take a little. For completeness, reviews of both pours are given.

1st pour (some time in May)

Nose: I could not discern the individual notes. They were not swirling about in the glass, but seemed to have cohered into a stable structure. I think this is what Serge from Whiskyfun calls "the thickness of old Willetts". I prefer to use the word 'density', to describe the compactness of the various smells or flavours, so hopelessly intertwined you cannot pick them apart. I cannot imagine things getting discernably denser than this. And the intensity, oh the intensity. I could smell it from a foot away! I knew there was a whole lot of complexity here, but I just did not have the precise words for it, or its components. The closest I could muster were "honey spice cake" and "gingerbread". Alcohol was barely detectable.

Palate: Again, there was an enigma, this time at the front palate. I shall once again attribute it to the "density" of the whiskey. Some kind (or a combination) of sweet dessert(s), perhaps a flaming alaska with cinnamon powder and mandarin orange peel sprinkled on top? This was followed by dark cherries and grapes, then sweetened chinese black tea. Mouthfeel was thick and chewy, unlike anything I have had before or since.

Finish: Black tea, dark fruits, toffee and oak. Extremely long.

2nd pour (11 August)

Nose: A strong blast of alcohol. Past this, bread and butter pudding, french toast, creme brulee, dried figs, chocolate.

Palate: First came the sweetness, like a blast of icing sugar, then huge spices. As the spices slowly subsided, cherries and currants emerged. Thereafter, dessert notes in increasing 'darkness': whipped cream, caramel, chocolate. And then the cherries came back. Now it reminded of a caramelised blackforest cake. Wood made an appearance and the cream and sweetness slowly dissipated, leaving the cherries behind. Mouthfeel was a little less solid compared to the first pour, compensated by the more intense spiciness.

Finish: Cherries, toffee and oak. As long as that in the first pour.

Score: 19.5/20 (first pour), 18/20 (second pour).



Review #2: Old Heaven Hill 15 years BIB (11 August)

According to the manager, this is a bottle from the 1980s. I could not find any information about this online.

Nose: Maple syrup, caramel popcorn, strawberries and cream. This slowly evolved into dark cherries, currants, chocolate and cream. This got very close to the profile of the Willett towards the end of the session, with substantially less intensity and without the toasted notes.

Palate: Big cream at the front, followed by chocolate and dark fruits. Think Amedei Chuao. Alternating layers of cherries and cream till finish.

Finish: A bit of cherries and oak, but mainly clotted cream. I felt a layer of curdled sweet cream stuck to the roof of my mouth cavity after every sip. Took a few minutes to clear. I do not know if I totally love it, but I never knew a whiskey could finish this way. Literally an incredible finish.

Score: 17/20



Review #3: Rittenhouse Rye 25 years (11 August)

The most expensive of the bunch. In fact, the most expensive of the night. S$76 per 30ml. That is about US$55 per ounce. For comparison, the best thing we had that night, the Jean Grosperrin 1971 Grande Champagne cask strength cognac, cost US$36 per ounce. This is not on the menu, but considering its legendary status here, I knew I got to have it when I saw it on the shelf.

Nose: Tart spices, a lot of them. Think cinnamon and nutmeg. This can get overpowering at times (in the case of WFE 25 years rye), making it difficult for the less ascerbic elements to shine through. Here it was more muted, perhaps due to the dilution. Beneath, there was the sweetness of cream and pastry. The entire package kind of reminded me of apple strudel and icing sugar.

Palate: A spice bomb. Then sweet fruits in the midpalate to accompany the tartness, something akin to dried apricots or even pineapples. Darker fruits, such as raisins, followed in tow, and toasted parfait and french toast wrapped up the performance.

Finish: Sweet cereal, and in background, red wine. The oak seemed to have assimilated into the other notes.

Score: 16.5/20


Image Courtesy of u/zoorado



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