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WhistlePig Rye Whiskey Review

WhistlePig Rye Whiskey (10 Year Old), 50% abv (100 Proof), $70/bottle

As one of the few 100% rye whiskeys on the market today, WhistlePig has an interesting story. First off, any rye whiskey must be at least 51% rye grain (in the grain recipe) to technically be called “Rye Whiskey” in the U.S. Typically most rye’s don’t exceed much more than 60-65%, with corn and/or barley making up the remainder. But then again, this ten year old WhistlePig doesn’t have just any man (or men) behind it.

During a year plus long search, David Pickerell, previous Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark for 14 years through 2008, came across this wonderful expression of rye in Canada. That’s correct, WhistlePig was not distilled by Pickerell and WhistlePig distillery (yet), but rather “sourced” or “found” and bottled. Pickerell partnered up with Raj Bhakta, an entrepreneur and former “Apprentice” reality show contestant, to form WhistlePig and get this great rye whiskey to the public. Today it is bottled at Bhakta’s 500 acre WhistlePig Farm in Vermont. It has been said by a number of sources that their goal is to create a fully sustainable “farm to bottle” distillery, growing the rye grain that will eventually become WhistlePig Rye Whiskey. But until they have their own distilled product we’ve been given a little gift to satisfy our thirst.

WhistlePig is pure rye without the training wheels. The nose brings a big burst of spearmint, wintergreen, menthol, licorice/anise, and woody spices. All this freshness is anchored with a nice core of sweetness that exudes spun sugar, cotton candy, and some light maple syrup. The nose as a whole is extremely complex but also airy, fresh, and lively for a 10 year old whiskey. I found myself nosing this rye forever to uncover all of the nuances it has to offer. The first sip explodes in the mouth, again with sweet southern red stem spearmint and wintergreen, rye grain prickliness, licorice, a big dose of honey, and dry oaky flavors. Texturally, WhistlePig takes over the mouth with it’s intense spices and lingers on long after it’s “down the hatch”. You’re left with those wonderful spearmint, honey, oak, and licorice flavors.

WhistlePig Rye Whiskey is an outstanding pour, and one of the most unique I’ve ever tasted. It’s currently only available in large markets like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, so order quickly online before all 1000 cases are gone. I highly recommend it.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.4 (Superb/Outstanding)

****Note: Most of the information above came from some general forums and various websites. But I want to point out a couple of websites in particular that have some great background on WhistlePig. Davin De Kergommeaux of http://canadianwhiskey.org has a fantastic article on WhistlePig. He also has a great site loaded with Canadian Whiskey info. Second, Chuck Cowdery is a Bourbon Hall of Famer and a true historian. His site, http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/ is a fantastic source of information on Bourbon and American Whiskey. Give both of these great sites a visit!****

18 Comments

  1. Jason,
    I am blushing. Thank you so much for your kind words. I really enjoyed researching that WhistlePig piece and I am glad you like it, just as I enjoyed yours. As for the whisky itself – spectacular!
    Keep up the good work.
    Davin

  2. Davin, my pleasure. You have fantastic information on your site, http://canadianwhisky.org. I’ve gained a lot more knowledge of Canadian Whisky and all it has to offer spending time there. Your article on WhistlePig was the best and most in depth I’ve read, and there have been many out there. Well done!

    I’m also very interested to see where things go with this product range. I was hearing rumblings of a younger version coming out next. I’m assuming that too would be a Canadian product. Can’t wait to see if it’s true. They are setting the bar very high for themselves. Dave Pickerell should be able to deliver, but that’s a fine whiskey in that bottle.

    Appreciate the comments!

    -Jason

  3. SAM K says:

    Jason,

    Really like your blog, and I appreciate the attention you bring to (north) American whiskey, but I’ll be the first guy anywhere to say that WhistlePig, though a very good whiskey, is not a great RYE whiskey. My brief experience was disappointing, what with all the plaudits being passed around it without exception, but it tastes more like bourbon to me that what I expect from a rye whiskey, and had I paid $70 for it, I’d have been disappointed.

    That being said, taste is truly a subjective thing, but I’m not getting all the love that surrounds this stuff. I’d be happier with four bottles of Wild Turkey rye for the same price.

  4. Sam I think you hit the nail on the head in that taste is a truly subjective thing. That’s one of the things I tell people. Try it for yourself and trust your own opinion first before anyone else’s.

    That said, and as my review stated, I absolutely love WhistlePig. One of the reasons I loved it and Rendezvous Rye from High West so much is because they have some weight and heft behind them. You mentioned “tastes more like bourbon”. To me it was less about them tasting like bourbon and more about having richness and depth that I feel most bourbons have that rye whiskey typically does not. Many expressions of rye are herbal, spicy, and thin. Just too dry in some respects and older ryes in particular take on age poorly in my experience. WhistlePig was an exception, which I thought was uniqu. To me it brings all of the great aspects of rye, but ramped up the spices and the sweetness by a healthy margin. This put it over the top for me.

    My biggest issue with it is something you touched on – it’s pretty expensive at $70+ per bottle. But there’s only 1K cases and so I suppose that limited release contributes to that. But I appreciate you stepping out there and saying you didn’t really care for it. I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of the other whiskeys I’ve reviewed. I love a healthy debate! : )

    I cannot thank you enough for reading the site and appreciate any and all comments. Keep em coming!

  5. sam k says:

    Jason, comparing your other reviews is where it gets interesting. Those are almost spot on with my own opinions, so go figure. I will say this…I had a short taste of the WhistlePig at a party where there was more whiskey than I could keep track of, and they ran the gamut from great (50 year old Dalmore, 18 year old Hirsch, Jefferson’s Reserve 17 y.o. barrel proof, and many more) to good (Redbreast 15, WhistlePig), with only one real loser in the bunch (Rogue Dead Guy…smells like manure but tastes a bit better).

    I did try mightily to pay attention to the Pig, but in all fairness, it was a long night. I’m headed to WhiskyFest New York next month and will give it another shot, along with their new high-rye bourbon.

    Also, do you really think that once the 1000 cases are gone, there won’t be any more? My take is that they’ve got to keep the brand going until their own product is ready, and 1000 cases wouldn’t keep them afloat very long. I do respect Dave Pickerell, though, and have every confidence that what he makes on his own will be worthy.

  6. sam k says:

    P.S Rendezvous Rye deserves every bit of the attention it’s getting!

  7. Sam, from what I’ve heard I believe the Canadian distiller that makes the juice that is WhistlePig has only so much available. WP scarfed it up and has secured more in coming years. That said it appears their next release will be either a younger rye or a rye-heavy bourbon. John Hansell just mentioned the later today, but I had heard something about a younger rye as well. I hear what your saying, I’m sure WP has ensured they have enough product of some sort to do a lot of rye focused releases in the coming years until they get their own stuff going. And Dave certainly has a name behind him where he can supplement somewhere I’m sure.

  8. Excellent report, well written I must say.

  9. Josh says:

    Jason, I agree, Davin’s article is very informative. I read it a few months ago and was very impressed with the info! The history including Bhakta fascinated me. Excellent job on te review as always.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t I with you at the Chicago WhiskyFest the first time you tried the WhistlePig? Or maybe I’m thinking of the Angel’s Envy.

    WhistlePig truly is am amazing rye, the best I’ve ever tasted.

  10. Josh I think you are referring to the Angel’s Envy Single Barrel. They saved me some at the Chicago ‘Fest. I hadn’t tried it prior. The WhistlePig review was from last year. I hope you are doing well!

  11. SteveBM says:

    After reading your review and a few others, I was fired up to try Whistlepig. Problem was that each time I found it at a bar the price was around $16/glass and there were other bourbons at lesser prices that I went for. Well, I finally stumbled across a great bar in Seattle called Zig Zag and had an extensive whiskey chat with the bartender. I ordered Whistlepig but he wanted me to try first. I have to say I’m glad he did. I found the nose to be all leather and the taste to be all leather. I’m not sure what it was but that’s all I could get out of it. I got a substantial pour for a “test” too and took a few sips but each one I could not get past the leather in my olfactory system.

    Maybe I’m totally missing the boat on this one, I don’t know. Hey, everyone is different when it comes to taste. I did have a rather hot soup earlier that night at dinner that may have singed my tongue a bit… I hope to have another chance to try this one but on first impression and at $70/bottle I’d have to pass.

    I had a Bulliet Rye Old Fashioned before tasting the Whistlepig, and a Willet 3yr rye, and a High West Double Rye after and enjoyed all of those far better.

  12. Anorak1977 says:

    Whistlepig’s problem is their price. I find it locally for $65 or so… my problem with that is that the BTAC for the past couple of years costs me only $5 or so more. BT also gives me full provenance info via fact sheets as well. I may be a geek but I really like to know every detail of what’s in my bottle if possible, especially since they are charging us all so much for it! :)

    If it were around $45 a bottle, I’d buy it for sure. Most of the retailers I frequent still have 6+ bottles on the shelves… it’s just not moving at these prices.

  13. Anyone notice inconsistencies with Whistle Pig?
    My first few encounters were heavenly. Rich. Sweet. Bold. So nice.

    My last experience had me wondering, “Where’s the rest?”

  14. Oz, it’s been some time since I’ve had a new bottle of WP. I’ll have to check that out.

  15. Nelson says:

    Jason, I had this one recently in Chicago at a restaurant called Longman and Eagle; they offer hundreds of whiskies, I highly recommend the establishment. I wonder if there is a source for locating such bars and restaurants around the country. Loved this rye by the way; one of my all time faves.

  16. William shaw says:

    I might be crazy – but I have had WP straight rye 3 times and I had thre different experiences (the second being leathery which I find funny because if the post above).

    How can I step for an expensive rye when I dont know what I am going to get?

  17. gdub says:

    I had my sights really high on this one based on the high reviews, and maybe I’m used to drinking higher proof bourbon or I got an off bottle, but I swear the juice in my bottle tastes watered down. For 100 proof neat, I can barely taste the alcohol. Don’t get me wrong, it’s tasty, but it leaves me wanting much more. I picked up a few extra bottles, so I hope the next one I open is different.

  18. James says:

    Jason,
    When you get an opportunity pick up a bottle of the Jefferson’s 10 yr Rye. At about half the price it is very formidable, especially from a value standpoint.

2 Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by John Lane, Jason Pyle, Jason Pyle, Jason Pyle, Jason Pyle and others. Jason Pyle said: "Rye whiskey without the training wheels"……my latest review of WhistlePig 100% Rye #Whiskey is up. http://ow.ly/2IIjW [...]

  2. [...] been able to tell, didn’t even review Masterson’s (a whisky made by wine-makers). Sour Mash Manifesto awarded Whistlepig a 9.4 while giving Masterson’s an 8.6, a remarkably lower score. And finally Whisky Advocate [...]

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