Origin: Vermont (USA)
Type: Straight Rye Whiskey
Ageing casks: Virgin
Added colouring: No
Owner: WhistlePig Whiskey Co.
Average price: € 180.00
Official website: www.whistlepigwhiskey.com
Legend has it that during a hike in Colorado in 2003, entrepreneur Raj Bhakta came across a hiker who warned him to watch out for whistlepigs, referring to the groundhogs that inhabit the area.
This funny nickname stuck in Bhakta’s mind, and he ended up using it in 2007 when he bought a farm and surrounding land in Shoreham, Vermont, with the idea of building a rye-only distillery, starting with blends made with Canadian whiskey in 2010.
Thanks to the commitment and experience of master distiller Dave Pickerell, who passed away in 2018, the stills were built and the first blends were distributed under the WhistlePig brand, debuting in 2015 with the ten year old to which larger ages were soon added, again of Canadian rye only,
In 2017 FarmStock Rye made its debut, defined as a triple-terroir whiskey being made (also) with their own grain, wood and water, while in 2018 the first rye coming entirely from the distillery, PiggyBack, was distributed (the pig theme as you can see is recurring).
Since then, production has expanded with several lines, including a bourbon, an Irish whiskey and a non-alcoholic distillate, following the proudly independent spirit of the distillery, which claims to be ‘proud to have no family tradition behind it’. Bhakta left the company in 2017 (after some legal turbulence), currently the management is in the hands of a (still proudly) young team, with Meghan Ireland as chief blender.
A 15-year-old whiskey made entirely from rye (of Canadian origin), with initial ageing in classic virgin American oak casks followed by finishing in casks designed by Pickerell, using Vermont wood whose narrower rings give more influence on the distillate.
A full-bodied and pungent nose, with a rich dose of sweet liquorice, gingerbread and tropical fruit (banana, papaya) emerging from the glass, imbued with freshly cut wood and caramel. The nose is silkier and softer than expected, with caramel, vanilla ice cream and macadamia nut making their way through the aromas together with touches of chocolate and a drop of coffee, with the spices (nutmeg, aniseed, a little black pepper) well present but not invasive. The whole is harmonious and balanced, without ever overdoing the tones, with a nice evolution.
In the mouth, the initial spicy verve soon paves the way for a marked presence of coffee and chocolate, immediately joined by vegetal notes of tobacco, fennel and dill that march alongside the softer connotations of caramel, tropical fruit and brown sugar. Citrus touches emerge along the length, with a puff of liquorice and almonds closing the circle. Less complex than on the nose, but varied enough not to tire.
The finish is quite long where the vegetal notes drive a certain astringency from the spicy tips, with liquorice, chocolate and almonds to follow.
Hardly ryes come across as shy and introverted, and this one is certainly no different, but it displays a certain elegance and compactness that is hard to find elsewhere, although it does lose some on the long run. Definitely worth a taste, despite a not-quite low price tag.