Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Review: WhistlePig Whiskey
Most new whiskies are, for economic reasons, put out on the market as quickly as possible, usually when they're four years old or less. Age statements are rare, and, quite frankly, few of them impress, tasting too much of their too-sharp youth. The folks at WhistlePig decided to wait. Their rye is 10 years old. The difference shows in the taste, which is intense, bright, fruity, minty and spicy. It's a bold, commanding flavor profile, unmistakably rye, and intensely flavorful at 100 proof. Mega-rye in a way.
WhistlePig is the work of distillery owner Raj Peter Bhakta and master distiller David Pickerell, who served at Maker's Mark for 14 years until 2008. Pickerell joined the effort a couple years ago. Why is WhistlePig ten years old? Not necessarily because Bhakta and Pickerell were patient, sitting on barrels for a decade. WhistlePig is a found whiskey, you see. After an 18-month search, Pickerell located a rye whiskey in Canada that was intended, as most Canadian ryes are, as a blending agent and acquired it. The Made-in-Vermont label, then, is just feel-good marketing for now.
The Vermont labeling will work well for consumers, no doubt. But the creators shouldn't be shy about saying the stuff comes from Canada. I think a lot of spirits enthusiasts and cocktail geeks would be very interested in what a pure Canadian rye tastes like.
Don't know what Pickerell would think of me for doing it, but I spent the last two ounces of my small sample of WhistlePig making an Old Fashioned. I do not repent. It was a hell of an Old Fashioned. A stand-up cocktail. I never forgot I was drinking rye, and good rye, too. I followed that Old Fashioned with another made with a different whiskey (which I shall not name) and it was a distinct let-down.
WhistlePig is putting out only 1,000 cases this year, launching in New York City, with some cases going to Chicago and San Francisco. The price is unsurprisingly dear, $70. I'd recommend buying a bottle, though. Worth it.