Willett Opens A Special Restaurant And Bar At Its Historic Kentucky Distillery

By Nino Kilgore-Marchetti / September 16, 2019

One of the more storied operations in Kentucky bourbon these days is the Willett Distillery. It is, as we wrote about a number of years ago, both a humble operation and also a true place of American whiskey geekdom. It is hard to argue what would make a visit to the distillery that much more perfect, but the new opening of a restaurant and bar there certainly makes a compelling reason.

What’s now known as The Bar at Willett, according to those behind, is equal parts culinary experience and liquid journey across the Willett whiskeys. It is being led on the kitchen side by John Sleasman, formerly a chef de cuisine at a five star diamond restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. It is said he has developed a menu inspired by the Willet/Kulsveen family’s “French heritage and Nordic roots,” and that his attraction to working there was a Willett emphasis on approachability in their whiskies.

“Developing seasonal menus has always been my favorite approach,” said Sleasman in a prepared statement. “I love how distinctive Kentucky seasons can be, and I am working to incorporate as many indigenous ingredients as possible.”

The Bar at Willett

A dish from The Bar at Willett (image via Willett Distillery)

The bar side, meanwhile, “will pour whiskey from vintage collections allowing guests to sample from storied bottles.” It is led by one Andrew Pope and, it is said, “will feature timeless classic cocktails and unique interpretations of the classics.” Pope himself took up residence in a tiny historic stone building on the property and began building “an ice domain complete with slow freezing technology, chainsaw and sculpting tools.”

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“We have always been a family of story tellers,” noted Britt Kulsveen, Willett President. “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.”