Bourbon Chronicles: Willett Distillery
Also on the list of distilleries not to miss is Willett.
Location: The distillery is located just over an hour south of Louisville near a city called Bardstown. It’s also geographically close to the James Beam distillery, and is all but in the back yard of Heaven Hill’s main property. Plan for adding a bit of padding to your drive time, as you won’t want to be late. The nice part about the Willett Distillery is, it’s a nice property to stay and experience even if you don’t have a tour or sit-down reservation booked at The Bar at Willett.
One recommendation I’ll make for scheduling your day (which is what we did with our out-of-town guest) was to schedule a morning tour & tasting at one of the larger, local distilleries (i.e. James Beam or Heaven Hill), followed by an afternoon tour & tasting at Willet with sit-down reservations at The Bar at Willett, their full-service on-site restaurant & bar.
Every other tour/tasting we’ve experienced has the tasting portion at the end of the tour. But the Willett tour starts with a pour of their Potstill Flagship bourbon, in a medium sized dram. In fact, perhaps the most distinguishing part of the Willett tour experience is that you are given pours of their various products throughout the course of your tour, from four or five pouring stations set up along the way. This is not purely a re-location of the customary end-of-tour tasting, but in addition to, as the tour concludes with a standard tasting of 3-4 products. What’s more is, I was very pleasantly surprised to find we were able to keep the tasting glass at the conclusion. In total, Willett has about twelve whiskey products in their lineup. All very tasty and very strong (the Pure Kentucky small batch straight bourbon whiskey is 107 proof). Their signature product is the Pot Still Reserve. While sipping and strolling along on the tour you’ll get to see the oversized original copper still (pictured below), after which a couple of their products’ bottles are fashioned.
|Name||Location||Tour Time||Tour Name||Tour Price||Address||Food Options|
|1 hour||Distillery Tour with Tasting||$25||1869 Loretto Road|
Bardstown, KY 40004
|The Bar At Willett|
Tip: Kentucky distillery tour outfit & shoes
Ladies and gents, this distillery has many different types of ground that you’ll be walking over from gravel to stairs, wood planks, brick and concrete. Because of this, ladies, it’s best not to wear a small, kitten heel or spiky heel. Opt for closed toe shoes and sandals, booties or, my personal favorite, riding boots. Men will largely be ok with any style of closed-toe shoe.
Food options – The Bar At Willett
This distillery is among the few that have a restaurant & bar on site. It’s called The Bar At Willett. Reservations are required since seating is limited. The Bar is located above the gift shop so it’s relatively easy to find on the property. If you’re not able to get a reservation, there is still open seating available on their beautiful and quaint first level patio.
We give this location 5 out of 5 ice cubes. It’s been a family-run operation since its inception, so it’s on the smaller side but the small size of the staff (I think our guide said around 50 people in total!) allows for a unique, charming and comfortably familiar vibe from everyone you’ll encounter. Willett has food available on site, a variety of products to try (primarily bourbons), a gift shop with lots of creative, clever items and a lovely staff. While their small size constricts their scale of production, compared to some of the more well-known brands in the bourbon world, the quality of their product catalogue stands up as some of the best bourbons you’re going to find from one production facility.
See more highlights from our trip to Willett on my Instagram Stories