Noah’s Mill is a bourbon produced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. (KBD), a company otherwise known as Willett Distilling Company or “Willett Distillery” as it is most commonly referred to. Willett Distillery was established by the Willett Family in 1935, and then in the 1970s switched from distilling spirits to distilling ethanol for fuel, and in the 1980s, stopped distilling entirely. Willett Distillery began distilling spirits again in 2012.
Noah’s Mill was first released in the mid-1990s with a 15 year age statement. It is the sister bottle to Rowan’s Creek, a lower proof bottling from Willett with a similar look and feel. In the early 2000s the age statement was dropped from Noah’s Mill’s label. The product was sourced until recently, and Willett Distillery does not disclose where Noah’s Mill was distilled for much of its history, and likely included whiskey from a number of distilleries. However, as Willett’s distillate aged, the company eventually changed over to bottling Noah’s Mill with their own distillate in recent years.
While the label identifies Noah’s Mill as simply “Bourbon,” the company’s website identifies it as “Straight Bourbon.”
This bourbon presents a distinctly nutty aroma, underscored by notes of seasoned oak, that gives way to the richness of caramel. It's punchy, and produces a dash of ethanol that surprises the senses as it’s a bit more prominent than I’d like. While not complex, its straightforward bouquet exudes an honest charm that is indicative of a well-crafted bourbon.
The bourbon unveils a rich tapestry of flavors, beginning with the sweetness of brown sugar, followed by funky, earthy undertones of tobacco and a unique taste reminiscent of a cigar box. The fruitiness of prunes intermingles with the essence of charred oak, contributing to its richness which is delivered with a very pleasing, velvety mouthfeel. The texture is chewy, almost tactile, and the taste develops into a delightful fusion of nuttiness and graham cracker.
The finish kicks off with a spicy punch upfront, immediately awakening the taste buds with a burst of cinnamon. Following this, a layer of burnt caramel unfolds, lending a gripping intensity. It is punchy and powerful, leaving a lasting impression of spice. Ultimately, it extends a long, delicious aftertaste, ending this bourbon on a memorable high note.
Noah’s Mill is one of Willett’s brands that does not highlight the Willett name or showcase the family crest, which has become a trademark people look to of the brand. This includes Johnny Drum Private Stock, Rowan’s Creek, Pure Kentucky, Kentucky Vintage, Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond, Old Bardstown Estate Bottled, and Old Bardstown 90 Proof. Among these brands, which have experienced label changes over the years but also look and feel as if they have been around for ages, Noah’s Mill offers the highest proof. Presented in an unusual greenish amber glass bottle, picking up a bottle of Noah’s Mill Bourbon feels like a trip down memory lane.
Willett Distillery sourced the bourbon used in Noah’s Mill until recently when it was switched over to their own distillate. Consumers speculate which distillery(ies) Noah’s Mill may have been sourced from, however, Willett does not disclose this information. Despite this, Willett has built a reputation for bottling high quality sourced bourbons, and upon restarting onsite distilling in 2012, quickly earned a reputation for distilling high quality modern-day whiskeys. Switching from highly regarded sourced products to your own distillate can prove to be challenging, as we have seen with Smooth Ambler and High West Distillery. In my opinion, neither has been able to reach a level of quality with their own distillate that they achieved with their sourced products.
Willett Distillery is unique in this sense, as even their younger products have been very good, which quite simply highlights the quality of their distillate. While Noah’s Mill no longer has an age statement and at one point was rumored to be anywhere between 4-20 years old, the fact is because the current product is 100% Willett distilled, the oldest possible bourbon that could be in the blend tops out at about 10 years old, as they started distilling again in 2012. But when it comes to flavor profile, age is not really the highlight of Noah’s Mill. Instead, the focus is on richness of flavor, which is delivered with a velvety, chewy mouthfeel. It’s in this regard that the whiskey really shines, and combined with a less-than-typical flavor profile that includes prunes, cigar box, and a nutty undertone, Noah’s Mill stands out as a no-frills bourbon with a rich, unique yet still strangely traditional flavor profile.
At $60, Noah’s Mill is at the top of what I consider the current “everyday bourbon” price range that includes a lot of really good, readily accessible bourbons. I have to increase my price target periodically, but I often tell new bourbon drinkers they really don’t need to spend more than this target on a bottle of bourbon as they will find many bourbons to explore. I could list plenty of products that meet this criteria, but a handful worth mentioning can be found on our Best Bourbons under $50 list, and also include traditionally-inspired bourbons priced and proofed a bit more in line with Noah’s Mill such as Knob Creek 12 Year, Larceny Barrel Proof, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, and Four Roses Small Batch Select. That is tough competition, but I prefer to think of the different bourbons more as complementary options than pure rivals. Each offers its own unique spin on traditionally-inspired higher proof Kentucky bourbon, and Noah’s Mill fits in very well with this group. Though it is not without some flaws, Noah’s Mill offers what is arguably one of the richest flavor profiles of the bunch. It’s an above average value, and one of bourbon’s hidden gems that has been on liquor store shelves all along.
A bourbon with a dated look and feel, but one that offers an unusually rich, unique yet still traditionally-rooted flavor profile, that is now distilled by Willett Distillery.
Noah’s Mill stands out visually for the fact that it looks and feels different than most other bourbons on the shelf. Its label feels like it was designed decades ago (it was), and rather than the typical clear glass it comes in a greenish amber bottle that looks as if it could have been dug up from a shipwreck.
Willett Distillery has been producing Noah’s Mill for decades. Over that time it’s changed from a 15 year age stated bourbon to a no age statement bourbon. It has been sourced from undisclosed source(s), until recent years when it quietly transitioned to Willett’s in-house distillate. Transitioning a long-time brand from sourced to distilled in-house and maintaining a similar level of quality can be challenging. But at the same time, Noah’s Mill was not considered consistent from batch to batch when the bottle contained sourced whiskey, and as a result mixed feelings about it abound. But with this particular batch (at least), Willett met the challenge in front of them, producing a really good bourbon that deserves attention. If you’re on the hunt for a rich, flavorful, unique tasting yet traditionally-inspired higher proof Kentucky bourbon, Noah’s Mill hits that mark.