The bar serves nearly 50 bourbons from the Willett Family Estate vintage collection.

By Mike Pomranz
Updated September 13, 2019
Credit: The Bar at Willett

Kentucky's Willett Distillery is already recognized as one of the best names to turn to for American whiskey — whether its higher end offerings like their Willett Family Estate Bottled 3-Year Small Batch Rye or their more affordable series of Old Bardstown bourbons, named after the distillery's hometown. But starting this week, Willett is also a great place to literally find a drink… and a bit of food as well. After plenty of anticipation, the distillery has finally opened The Bar at Willett.

More than just a place to take in a tipple, the distillery promises that this new on-site bar and small plates restaurant will "will tell the Kulsveen and Willett story through imaginative dishes, timeless cocktails, and vintage pours." The brand's current master distiller, Drew Kulsveen, is a fifth-generation whiskey maker who can trace his lineage back to French Catholic 17th century Cognac producers who came to America to escape persecution and began making bourbon in Kentucky in the 1800s. "We have always been a family of story tellers," Britt Kulsveen, Willett president, said in the announcement. "The food we serve and the timeless atmosphere we serve it in, all tell a story. Our story, like so many, gets better after a glass of cask strength whiskey."

Speaking of whiskey, the aforementioned pours from Willett's vintage collections top out at choices like a $200 one-ounce taste of Willett Family Estate Barrel No. B79 23-Year, 136-Proof Bourbon and a $500 one-ounce pour of Barrel No. 11 Velvet Glove 23 Years, 137 Proof Rye — though they offer nearly 50 of their Bourbons to choose from, starting at $25. Meanwhile, Barkeep Andrew Pope has also crafted a mix of timeless classic cocktails — like a Willett Whiskey Sour — and unique interpretations of the classics — like a Colony Julep with Plantation Pineapple Rum, Willett Rye, Honey, absinthe, and mint.

Credit: The Bar at Willett

On the food side, Executive Chef John Sleasman's menu is "inspired by the family's French heritage and Nordic roots," while taking inspiration from Willett's whiskey in mimicking the brand's ethos of both "complexity and approachability." Examples include a classic country ham spread and even a "tirelessly"-perfected egg salad sandwich. "Developing seasonal menus has always been my favorite approach," Sleasman stated. "I love how distinctive Kentucky seasons can be, and I am working to incorporate as many indigenous ingredients as possible."

Credit: The Bar at Willett

The Bar at Willett — billed as "an inviting extension of the Kulsveen home, complete with family photos and treasures" — is open for lunch and dinner Thursday to Saturday and for brunch on Sunday. The distillery says that reservations are "essential."