Posted on | February 2, 2012
Written by | W.R. Tish
With craft bottlings competing with commercial favorites, it takes a lot for a whiskey to stand out these days. Especially when it’s a new entrant in a category steeped in tradition. WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey, launched in 2010, has earned its spot on back bars and retail shelves the old-fashioned way: with top quality and real personality.
WhistlePig’s tale starts in a rather unlikely locale: a former dairy farm in Vermont’s Champlain Valley. The pastoral setting provides a picture perfect backdrop for one of the country’s most decorated rye whiskeys. WhistlePig is hand-selected by whiskey legend Dave Pickerell and is bottled attentively by hand at the farm. WhistlePig founder and CEO, Raj Bhakta, has set lofty goals for the project. His background, which includes a colorful run for United States Congress, is unabashedly patriotic. It is Bhakta’s objective to take American whiskey to the very pinnacle of the whiskey world.
To that end, Bhakta brought Pickerell onboard, and they are off to impressive start. Numerous distinctions include: a perfect five out of five stars from spirits authority Paul Pacault; 96 points from Wine Enthusiast; and being named among the top five whiskeys of the world by the Wall Street Journal.
America’s Single Malt
Bhakta set top-shelf standards for his whiskey from the start, aiming to surpass the finest Scotland has to offer. “Consumers are moving to more flavorful spirits,” he says. “Within the world of whiskey, you can’t get more flavor than from a rye. And within the world of rye, WhistlePig has more rye—100% rye to be exact, making it a single malt—bottled at a higher proof , at a much older age than the vast majority on the market.”
Make no doubt: this is impactful whiskey. The aromatics deliver spice (allspice, ginger, nutmeg, clove), anise and orange-peel atop a foundation of charred oak and caramel. The taste is full and complex, opening with sweet floral notes, followed by rye-spice and mint flavors and hints of caramel and vanilla, then finishing warm and long, crisp yet creamy, reminiscent of butterscotch. No wonder Paul Pacault called WhistlePig “sensational” and “rye at its zesty best.”
Master Distiller Dave Pickerell brought experience and pedigree to WhistlePig, having held the same position for 14 years at Maker’s Mark. He is a technical whiz when it comes to whisky-making; a past chair of the Kentucky Distillers Association, he also served on DISCUS’s technical committee and was chosen to launch George Washington’s distillery at historic Mount Vernon—using the original stills used by the nation’s first President back in the 1790s.
Double Time in Barrel
As with many top-shelf spirits, character depends not only on prime ingredients and careful handling, but also time. WhistlePig undergoes a unique 10-year double-barrel aging process, the first five years in new American oak, the remainder in second-use bourbon barrels. This decade of maturation, according to Bhatka, transforms rye’s spicy intensity into true character. WhistlePig offers consumers more rye, at a higher proof, with a remarkable balance between flavor and age.
Who is the WhistlePig drinker? “Someone of character and taste,” says Bhatka. “And of course someone who’s moved beyond ordering a particular brand just because it is expensive and well known.” WhistlePig’s bold character gives it natural appeal for fans of single malts and cask-strength bourbons. At the same time, it works as a foundation for big but balanced cocktails such as the Porky’s Smash, created by Tad Carducci of the NYC-based Tippling Bros.
|Porky’s Smash Cocktail
2 ½ oz. WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey
Muddle lemon, add mint and press. Add remaining ingredients