In the 21st century, we have seen a tremendous resurgence in rye whiskey. Not long ago few drinkers could name a single brand and today we have a number of quality ryes to choose from whose names have become almost as regular in conversation as the popular bourbons. WhistlePig is one of those brands and has made a significant mark in thw American rye whiskey market.
The story of WhistlePig began with the 2007 purchase of a Vermont dairy farm by founder and CEO Raj Peter Bhakta.
He teamed up with former Maker's Mark Master Distiller David Pickerell to develop a rye whiskey that took the farm's new name.
The goal was to create a single malt, single estate whiskey using the farm's organically grown rye. The advantage of this 100% rye whiskey is that you get the raw taste of a grain that is more robust, more flavorful than corn or any other grain used in whiskeys and they have pulled it off very nicely. In the end, WhistlePig has become a favorite for those who appreciate a full-flavored rye. The brand often uses the phrase "rugged grain refined" and it is an accurate description of what you will find in a bottle of WhistlePig.
Any whiskey takes time to develop using ideal methods; WhistlePig is a good example of quick sourcing and perseverance. The first bottles were released in 2010 after Pickerell found a Canadian rye that met his esteemed standards - he was one of my initial tutors in the finer points of whiskey tasting - and a unique, two-barrel aging process was implemented.
The first round of the 10-year aging process happens in new American oak barrels and the second in used bourbon barrels, giving the whiskey the best of both worlds and adding unique undertones to the finished product. The barrels are also selected each year according to which cooperage has the best oak available, which further defines each individual batch of whiskey.
In 2014, the Vermont government gave WhistlePig permission to build their own distillery on the Shoreham farm where the rye is already grown and the hand-bottling takes place. The distillery has been in full operation there, ever since.
In general, rye whiskeys can take some getting used to if you have been drinking smooth, corn-dominated bourbons and blended whiskeys. Rye is not a delicate grain. It is very poignant, very clearly rye and in a whiskey made entirely of that flavor, you will certainly notice a difference. Think of the last time you ate rye bread and tasted that signature dark spice; this is what you will (hopefully) learn to love about a pure rye whiskey like WhistlePig.
This is a rye whiskey that is great on its own if you appreciate the rye snap. Though I will say that if you're drinking it straight, you will find its bouquet open up nicely when a little water is added or you chill it with an ice ball or another slowly-dissolving cube. It will mellow the flavor perfectly and cut the proof down just enough to transform it into a savory sipper.
WhistlePig begins with a rich aroma marked with spices like ginger and nutmeg, a hint of anise and a lovely orange peel that melds perfectly with the caramel-oakiness from the barrels.
It is multidimensional on the palate, starting off with sweet florals, warm caramel and vanilla that then fade into that spicy rye we have come to expect from this style of whiskey. Towards the end there are creamy notes of butterscotch and dark chocolate that linger into the lasting finish.
Cocktails? Yes, this is a cocktail-worthy whiskey, and in fact, that's where it shines. Start out with the classics that were meant to have rye like the Manhattan, Sazerac and Waldorf (it is fabulous against the anise flavors if the last two). This is also my new choice for a personal favorite, the Colleen Bawn, in which rye is mixed with Chartreuse, Benedictine and egg white. Keep the cocktails simple and you will be able to enjoy WhistlePig's full range of flavors.
- Porky's Smash
- More Rye Whiskey Cocktails
- 100% rye whiskey, aged 10 years, hand-bottled, and produced in small batches
- Master Distiller David Pickerell
- Product of WhistlePig Farm Distillery in Shoreham, Vermont
- First released in 2010
- 50% alcohol/volume (100 proof)
- Visit their website
Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.