Not too long ago, we reviewed the 6 year aged version of WhistlePig’s straight rye whiskey and it was a decidedly five star experience — and that was only the entry level version of their product. While they might focus on imported Canadian rye whiskey (which is definitely a bit of a niche), WhistlePig has a broad array of different varieties that sure look impressive, so today we are drinking the version that started it all: The original. The 10 Year Straight Rye Whiskey.
Back in 2007, Raj Peter Bhakta purchased a dairy farm in Vermont and started thinking about business opportunities. After much soul-searching, he decided that the thing he really wanted to do was to open a whiskey distillery, and thus he set about creating one.
So why ‘WhistlePig’?! Well, according to the company, it was during these early years that Bhakta was hiking in Colorado. While there, he was nearly run over by a French cyclist, who apparently thought he had run into a “whistle pig” (as he called it). Bhakta was thoroughly confused, and the Frenchman disappeared before he could get any clarification. It was the oddest encounter of his entire life and, after telling a couple people about it, he decided that the absurd phrase would be his farm’s name. The company would officially be founded in 2008.
Bhakta would team up with Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, formerly of Maker’s Mark, to turn his dream into a reality. Dave wanted to focus on rye whiskey (something Maker’s Mark doesn’t really do), and by chance he had stumbled across a stock of high quality 10 year aged Canadian rye whiskey, which would become the source for WhistlePig’s flagship 10 year rye.
Since opening its doors, WhistlePig has focused on rye whiskey using spirits primarily imported from Canadian distillers (such as their original source) and blended to taste. In 2015, they opened their on-site distillery, using pot stills and locally raised grain to start bottling their own homemade whiskey in addition to the sourced and imported blends.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of information about the contents of this bottle. All we can piece together is an idea of what we’re drinking from the clues on the label.
First and foremost: this whiskey isn’t actually distilled by the folks at WhistlePig — per the label, it is only “hand bottled by” the folks at WhistlePig. As we know from their history, the company only really took off when they discovered a ready made stock of 10 year aged rye whiskey just over the border in Canada that they could get for dirt cheap (and which was, in a fortuitous turn, also surprisingly delicious). This whiskey is a continuation of that same original product, so while this whiskey may have been distilled and produced for WhistlePig, it wasn’t distilled by WhistlePig. It remains a product of Canadian distilleries.
And I do mean distilleries — as in, plural. Or at least multiple distilling runs. The whiskey describes itself as a blend of straight rye whiskies, so it is highly unlikely that the contents of this bottle came from a single barrel or even possibly all straight rye whiskey sources. That description gives them a ton of wiggle room to add new stuff into the bottle, change the flavors and so forth. What I’m saying, basically, is that it might not be all straight rye whiskey in there… but we don’t know for certain either way.
So let’s pull it all together: As we know from the legend and the manufacturer’s website, this starts out as a Canadian produced rye whiskey that is aged for 10 years. Rye whiskey means that the spirit was produced primarily from rye grain, but there’s no indication of any other grains that may have gone into this spirit. Once over the border, the whiskey is blended with other sources and placed in new oak barrels for an undisclosed period of time. Following that second maturation, process the whiskey is bottled by WhistlePig and shipped.
I really like this bottle. I think it does everything that you would want from a whiskey container.
Starting with the shape, it’s an interesting, visually appealing design. The bottle is slim in depth, and wide with rounded corners and a gently sloping shoulder. Those rounded edges make the bottle seem elegant. Refined, even. Certainly something in which the producers took their time and really invested in the product — rather than just slapping a label on something random and shipping it out the door.
Two features in the bottle itself that add to that perception are the base and the back. The base is significantly thicker than usual — a trick that tends to help bottles “light up” on a bottom lit back shelf of a bar, and which also makes the bottle seem more weighty and significant. Additionally, embossed into the back of the bottle are the “WP” initials for the distillery, which is visible through the whiskey itself.
Speaking of the whiskey, it is front and center in this presentation. There’s no attempt to hide it behind a label — the bottle actually seems designed to show it off as much as possible. The only label is a half height cummerbund that has the distillery’s name, the specific information about the whiskey, and the distillery’s cheeky mascot of a pig in a top hat. There really isn’t any attempt to embellish the label with a ton of artwork, instead letting the whiskey do the talking.
The bottle is capped off with a short, wide neck that flares to a wide rim. There’s a wood and cork stopper up top that keeps everything contained.
I haven’t added a thing to this, it’s literally just a pour of whiskey in an empty (and clean) glass, but it smells like I already have a good cocktail cooked up. There’s some brown sugar and vanilla as you’d expect from an oak barrel aged whiskey, but there isn’t the overwhelming charred component that you often get when you go north of four years aging. There’s also a bit of honey sweetness, a touch of sourdough rye bread, some apple slices, and a wedge of orange.
What I’m saying is that, even just as-is, there’s a lot going on in the nose here. And it all blends amazingly well.
Not all of those flavors are readily apparent in the flavor, though. Primarily what I get is a heavy helping of toffee and caramel, a good bit of brown sugar sweetness, and a bit of black pepper kick from the rye content. It’s almost a bit too rich if I’m honest, and probably needs a good bit of dilution to really draw out all the flavors.
On the end, there’s a good medium length finish with that pepper spice that lingers for about a minute.
Honestly, I think a little bit of ice does this whiskey wonders. Normally, lighter and sweeter flavors disappear with the added ice, while the dilution also tones down the richer and darker aspects and allows other flavors a chance to shine.
In this case, the toffee and caramel are still present but there’s more to it now. It seems like ice only mellows out the stronger flavors without completely eliminating the more delicate ones. That honey sweetness, orange zest, and the crisp apple flavors have become more prominent, making this a significantly brighter and more cheerful drink than it was a minute ago.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Thanksgiving came and went not too long ago, and thankfully I had this bottle on hand when the holiday rolled around. Because WhistlePig old fashioned cocktails are the only thing I drank all day (in terms of alcohol, that is).
These are absolutely delicious. The sweetness in the whiskey counteracts the angostura bitters nicely, and the bright cheerful flavors balance well with the richer and deeper flavors that are added in this preparation. It’s a nicely balanced cocktail, perhaps a touch on the fruity side, but in my opinion just about the perfect version of an old fashioned.
In a mule, I’m normally looking for two things. First, for the bold flavors of the whiskey to come through and make a statement despite the power of the ginger beer. And second, for the whiskey to add some uniqueness to the cocktail that I wouldn’t get if I used vodka.
For this whiskey, those richer tones from the caramel and toffee flavors do the majority of the heavy lifting when it comes to the added aspects. There’s a good balance with the tangy ginger beer, and the already bright aspects of the whiskey do a good job in a supporting role blending together to make a great flavor profile. Add in the black pepper kick from the rye content and you’ve got something that hits the nail on the head.
Truth be told, this bottle might be a little spend-y for me to use it exclusively in a mule. You don’t get the entire range of flavors in there, and most of them are jumbled together or obscured. But I wouldn’t judge someone who does.
WhistlePig is considered by some to be the epitome of what can be done with a Canadian rye whiskey, and I completely agree. The flavors that come out in this spirit are fantastic, with a complexity and a depth that I’d usually only expect from an expensive bourbon. This bottle absolutely sets the bar for what a “good” rye whiskey should achieve.
We reviewed the Piggyback version of this whiskey not too long ago, and the age difference is immediately noticeable. This here is a richer, deeper version of that whiskey we already reviewed, with much of the same flavor profile. The difference is in the depth of those flavors — you pay a little more here, but the results are rich and amazing.
|WhistlePig 10 Year Straight Rye Whiskey|
Produced By: WhistlePigProduction Location: Vermont, United States
Classification: Rye Whiskey
Aging: 10 Years
Proof: 50% ABV
Price: $72.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 5/5
A great way to wet my whistle.