Willett isn’t a distillery I’ve had copious exposure to. They’ve certainly been on my radar with the deceptively effective label for Noah’s Mill and Willett Pot Still’s undeniably striking bottle design. However, I simply never pulled the trigger on any of their bottles, typically favoring the purchase of something more…reputable. Not that Willett isn’t reputable—they’ve been around for nearly 100 years and produce some highly sought-after bottles—they just don’t spring to my mind when considering the more tenured distilleries. Not to mention the reputation of the aforementioned Pot Still whiskey hasn’t been the most flattering (more on that in a future post).
Today, however, I pop my Willett cherry thanks to a sample from a fellow whiskey fan. Rowan’s Creek is simply described as a hand-bottled small batch straight bourbon. I’ve also heard people refer to this as baby Noah’s Mill. The name is taken after the creek that runs through Willett’s distillery. Without further ado, let’s dig in.
Nose: Fairly standard and on the young side with corn, nuts, and a touch of brown butter. Hints of floral essence in the background. Swirling brings out a citrus aroma, begins as lemon but gradually mellows into orange. Nuttiness comes across like almond or walnut, but blends seamlessly with the corn notes. Bit of young rye grassiness with further nosing. Vaguely dill-like. Light caramel, wood, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Palate: Caramel corn, slightly buttery. Light brown sugar, almond butter, wood, and traces of light vanilla and caramel. Touch of dried fruit upfront (apricot, perhaps) followed by a youthful sting and some lemon/orange citrus. Has a craft-like essence.
Finish: Mild-moderate with a fairly decent hug. Barely roasted almonds, wood, and a hint of white pepper.
What immediately struck me about this whiskey is how much it felt like a craft expression. By this, I mean that it tastes young, but not necessarily in an off-putting way. Some craft expressions strike a respectable balance between grain and age while leaning towards the former. Rowan’s Creek comes across this way, which is all the more interesting when you remember the distillery has been active for well over 50 years. I understand that they sourced their whiskey for a while and even included age statements during that period, so perhaps they’re in the middle of a recent shift?
Regardless, this sample of Rowan’s Creek left me somewhat confused but all the more curious about Willett’s other expressions. I get the impression that a bottle of this could get better over time, but I wouldn’t say it captivated me enough to seriously consider a purchase. It’s a bit like Pinhook’s 2020 Bohemian Bourbon where I can see the potential, but feel the present version doesn’t quite hit that sweet spot.