Spirit Of The Week: Kings of Leon x Willett ‘Kiamichi’ 8-Year Rye

The Nashville rockers unveil a family-focused collaboration with a three-bottle collection of hand-picked ryes.

We’re big fans of any Willett juice, be it their recent collab with the Wolves crew, Metallica, or their own Bardstown, Kentucky bourbons and ryes. At September’s Bourbon & Beyond festival a new expression was revealed when headliners Kings of Leon announced onstage their new partnership with Willett named Kiamichi—a three-bottle collection of handpicked ryes.  

The much-loved Nashville, Tennessee band is comprised of brothers Caleb, Nathan and Jared Followill, with their cousin Matthew joining in on guitar. Most casual fans probably remember Kings of Leon most from their multi-Grammy winning fourth LP, Only by the Night

Seemingly overnight the 2008 album sourced late night drunken anthems like “Sex on Fire,” “Need Somebody” and several other hits, but the Followill boys have many more great tunes to their name—as well as seven more albums. 

Apparently they also make a hell of a whiskey with the Willett family. Their new limited edition Kiamichi Whiskey collection includes a 5-Year rye ($149), 8-Year rye ($249) and a 19-Year bourbon ($1,499) all crafted at the Willett Distillery. Our Goldilocks favorite was the 8-Year Rye, a 6-barrel blend of Willett’s low rye mash bill aged in Char 4, 9-month cured American oak. 

As with almost anything Willett related this is some delicious whiskey, with the family’s signature notes of apricot, honey and maple syrup complimented by the rye’s white pepper and cinnamon. 

Like Kings of Leon themselves Kiamichi is a true family affair—the collection itself named after the local river where the Followill boys grew up near, going to family reunions, etc. Little surprise they teamed with Willett, who for over 80 years remain independently family-owned and operated by the Kulsveen family. 

“I’ve been a big and long-time fan of Drew and Britt [Kulsveen]. Meeting Drew and discovering their whiskeys was when I started to understand the huge difference between what’s good and what’s great,” shares Jared of the origins of the collaboration. 

“I would bring different bottles of Willett with me to parties and back to reunions and feel like I was bringing something really special,” the bassist continues. “When we started to talk about doing our own brand they were my first and only call. If they would have said no, we probably wouldn’t have done it.”

Kiamichi 8-Year Rye comes bottled at 54% ABV and drops just as Kings of Leon spread their music across the badlands of Australia, but you should be able to find Willett’s latest with a bit of interweb scouring. $249

Follow Contributing Spirits Editor Nicolas Stecher on Instagram at @nickstecher and @boozeoftheday.