The Willett History

1684 In 1674 Edward Willett went to London and apprenticed to Daniel Mason to learn the pewter trade. When he was twenty-three, Edward received his mark and became a pewterer. He was allowed to strike his touch, pictured here, in the Pewterer’s Hall of London in 1684.

1692-1792 For a century, these Willetts would call Prince George’s County, Maryland home, which is very near Washington, D.C.

1792 William Willett, Jr., grandson of Edward Willett, moved to Nelson County, Kentucky. This is the same year that Kentucky became a state.

1841 John David Willett is born on December 26, 1841 in Nelson County, Kentucky. He was one-third owner and Master Distiller at Moore, Willett & Frenke Distillery. During his lifetime, John David was also the Master Distiller at four other distilleries in Kentucky.

1883 Aloysius Lambert Willett, who went by Lambert, was born September 23, 1883 in Bardstown, Kentucky. Lambert was in the Kentucky Bourbon business from the age of 15, and served several distilleries across the Commonwealth in various capacities. This photo was taken on Lambert’s wedding day.

1909 Aloysius Lambert Thompson Willett, who went by Thompson, was born on January 27, 1909 in Bardstown, Kentucky. Thompson Willett was founder and President of Willett Distillery in Bardstown. This photo was taken on Thompson’s wedding day.

1936 In the spring of 1936, the family breaks ground on the distillery. Willett Distillery was erected on the family’s farm, three short years after the repeal of prohibition.

1937 March 17th – St. Patrick’s Day – The Willetts put their first barrel into storage in Warehouse A. The photo to the right is Thompson Willett on the distillery grounds.

1940’s In the 1940’s Willett Distillery introduced Old Bardstown Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The photo at the left is Thompson Willett inspecting a bottle of Old Bardstown.

1960’s Thompson Willett developed Johnny Drum Bourbon, exclusively for a wholesaler in California.

1960 January 8th – Willett Distillery fills its 100,000th barrel. Pictured at far right is Lambert Willett, Thompson’s father.

1964 In the same year Congress named Bourbon America’s Native Spirit, Thompson Willett and the Willett Distillery received a gold medal for Old Bardstown. Pictured here on September 11th, is Thompson Willett (on right) receiving the medal from Kentucky Governor Edward Thompson “Ned” Breathitt, Jr. at the Kentucky State Fair.

1984 Even and Martha Kulsveen assume the leadership role.

1990’s Small Batch Boutique Bourbon Collection – Rowan’s Creek, Noah’s Mill, Kentucky Vintage & Pure Kentucky – is released.

2003 Even & Martha Kulsveen’s son, Drew Kulsveen, joins the family business.

2005 Even & Martha Kulsveen’s daughter, Britt Kulsveen Chavanne, and her husband, Hunter Chavanne, join the family business.

2008 Willett Family Estate Bottled Bourbon is introduced.

2008 Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye is introduced.

2008 Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon debuts in the signature pot still shaped bottle fashioned using the original still blueprints.

2011  Willett opens a visitor center to welcome guest touring the historic property. 

2011 Warehouse A is renovated.

2012 Janelle Vincent Kulsveen, Drew’s wife, joins the family Business.

2012 After several years of renovations, on January 21st, the family starts up the distillery.

2012 A few days later, the copper pot still was put to use for the first time.

2012 January 27th – The family puts the first barrels of their new-make Bourbon Whiskey into Warehouse A for storage. This would have been Thompson’s 103rd birthday.

2012 Barrel No. 1

2014 10,000th barrel

2014 October 31st – The first release of Willett Exploratory Cask Finished Whiskey is unveiled.

2015 Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye Whiskey, Aged Two Years, is released. This is the first Whiskey to be released that came off the Willett copper pot still.

2016 March 17 – Willett Family Estate Bottled Bourbon Whiskey, Aged Four Years, is released. This is the first Bourbon to be released that came off the Willett copper pot still.

2016 The “new” Old Bardstown 90 proof as well as the “new” Old Bardstown Bottled in Bond Bourbon is released. Both Bourbon labels are reproductions of Old Bardstown labels that were in the family’s portfolio when Thompson Willett was President.

2017 On March 17, 2017 – St. Patrick’s Day – the family celebrated it’s 80 Year Anniversary of when Thompson Willett and his family put their first barrels into storage.

2017 25,000th barrel