Review: Willett Exploratory Cask Finish

Willett Exploratory Cask Finish (XCF) Whiskey Review

If you’re not familiar with Willett XCF here’s a brief summary. Willett has taken a 7 year old rye whiskey from MGPI and aged it in Curacao Casks. Curacao Casks are just old bourbon barrels with an orange peel distillate that was aged for 2 years. After the the aged orange peel distilate is mixed with Congac and sweetener to create Grand Marnier.


Willett XCF Review:

Nose: Orange peel right off of the bat. Heavy rye notes from the MGPI juice (sweet, mint, orange juice). There’s also some cinnamon or other spice

Taste: tastes like an Old Fashioned without the sugar. There’s dry orange peel and a sweet bubble gum note.

Finish: This will not come as a surprise but there’s more orange on the finish. It’s a well balanced and easy finish considering it’s 103.4 proof.

Overall: Overall, this is a very good and unique tasting whiskey. I’ve sipped on it for the last 3 days straight that’s how much I’ve enjoyed it. The controversy comes with the price tag. This whiskey is retailing for around $150 and the argument can be made that there are a lot of other great whiskies (which you could have multiple bottles of) for $150. Because of the price I’d say it’s a personal choice. I see guys pay $150+ for Thomas Handy all the time and I would pick XCF over THH 9/10 times. If you have room in your bourbon budget to pick up a bottle to me it’s an easy choice. It’s tasty and it’s a one time release.

Some have complained that Willett is taking advantage of bourbons popularity and I agree (I just don’t have a problem with it). They see what kind of prices their bottles are fetching on the secondary and I don’t blame them for cutting in to some of those profits. Because the pricing I was able to walk in to a store and buy a bottle. There was no waiting list, no line and no phone calls to every store within a 200 mile radius. Part of me hates to see increased prices but another part enjoys not having to beg, barter and steal over every new release. This is just my opinion and it may easily change if every new release use Willetts pricing blueprint.


    Nice review. Not sure if the WXCF has hit VA yet. I’m a huge fan of Willett – always has been my favorite. While the pricing turn people off, the family that runs the company is great – very nice people who really understand bourbon. In the DC area, it’s really hard to get a bottle of any Willett product (minus the pot still) for less than $200, which is too much for my budget. Most of my Willet bottles come through online sales (just picked up a 9 yo bourbon for less than $80) and via trades. I hear they are increasing production and things, so hopefully we’ll see some better availability and prove adjustments in the future. Cheers!

    im totally fine with high pricing on bottles.
    if you sit with a few friends and have a great 2-3 hour chat x 5 nights
    that’s about 10/hr. It’s still a lot cheaper than other stupid stuff we waste our money on.

    I picked up a bottle of the XCF a couple weeks ago.
    I just can’t decide how I feel about it though. I don’t mind the price, but it is a big leap of faith to pay $150 for something that you’ve never tried. In terms of just straight tasting… I think you’re description as it being an old fashion without the sugar is pretty spot on. When I first opened the bottle, I was a little disappointed by how bitter and dry the orange was [full disclosure – i enjoy campari but also have been a fan of Gran Marnier for a long time]. After a couple of days though, the taste has grown on me. I’m still not sure that I’d get it again based on other options right now – Midwinter Night’s Dram comes to mind. However, overall pretty interesting concept and execution. The nicest thing about this was the availability. That price point might be just off-putting enough to allow people who really want to try it out the opportunity to find a bottle easily and not have to hassle with the secondary market.

    While age does not always necessitate deliciousness, it, at some level, helps justify heightened prices as the taxes need to be paid each year the juice waits patiently and evaporates. $130-$150 for a 7yr MGP product that’s finished for 90 days is asinine. This whiskey is thoroughly trounced by anything remotely close to its price range. Hell, Old Blowhard is only good for vatting, but at least it was old enough to rent a car.
    Folks can spout the supply/demand reasoning all they want, this is not capitalism, this is shameful. Buy five bottles of Bulleit rye and some orange bitters.

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