Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review: WhistlePig Whiskey

Among the boutique American whiskies that have flooded the market in the past decade, the new WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey immediately stands out. Because its bottled (not made) in Vermont, a state that doesn't produce a lot of spirit, yes. But also because it's debut bottling is ten years old.

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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This really lives up to my expectations. The first sip I knew this was really unique. I bought a bottle of Pappy Van Winkles 20yr reserve, and a bottle of Whistle pig. Sampled the PVW first, and 8 hrs. later tried the WhistlePig...The Whistlepig left me with lasting impression. I thought the taste went flat, but as the ice melts it has a smooth lingering easy fruitful finish. The higher alcohol content is totally hidden. I think you could increase the alcohol content with out taking anything away. A bottle will be on in my bar as long as it is available...