Blackened X Willett Madeira Finished Rye Whiskey
Age: A blend of barrels aged 4-8 Years with “an average age of 6.5 years”
Recipe: A blend of Willett’s high and low rye mash bills finished in Madeira casks for up to 14 weeks
Price Paid (MSRP): $143 ($140)
Nose: Strawberry jam, raspberries, rye spice, charred oak, cinnamon candies, clove, brown sugar, dill, orange peel, and mint. It’s Willett rye with extra fruit, as expected, but that additional oak is a pleasant surprise.
Palate: Thick mouth feel, sweet initially with more fruits (strawberries, raspberries, and orange zest), fresh dill, cinnamon spice, faint mint, moderate tannins with black tea and musty oak.
Finish: Medium to long length, red berries, leather, baking spices, black tea, drying with oak spice and tannins.
Rating: 84/100 – Excellent | Really quite exceptional
Could this be a glimpse into the future of Willett? The average age of the whiskeys in this blend was 6.5 years, but there’s a noticeable amount of oak influence here, especially when compared to my 6 year Willett rye pick. Blackened advertises a unique finishing process that uses sonic-enhancement (featuring a custom Metallica playlist) to vibrate the barrels and increase wood interaction. The actual Madeira finish is rather tame, and almost feels unnecessary to me, but the increase in oak is significant. It’s a lot of gimmicky marketing, yet after having tasted this, I’m beginning to believe that Blackened might be on to something with their process.
As for how it all comes together, Blackened x Willett is delicious. It brings most of the classic Willett notes with an additional helping of oak. However I’m not sure that I agree with the choice of a Madeira finish. The combination of extra tannins plus the heavy wine influence kills some of those brighter rye notes that I love. The signature mint has been buried under a darker profile that feels overdone to my palate.
Blackened x Willett comes with a hefty price tag of $140. Do I think think it’s worth it? Unfortunately no. At that price point a whiskey has to be really special and this bottle, while excellent, is just not at that level. As a Willett fan I’m happy that I was able to try a new and unique expression of their rye (something that has become almost impossible these days), but I can’t help but feel that MSRP is a little too close to secondary on this release.