Anytime I pick up a bottle from WhistlePig, I’m fairly confident I’m getting something delicious. They make some delicious stuff, despite (or possibly due to) the fact that they mostly import their whiskey from Canada. That wasn’t the long term plan, though — they always intended to produce their own whiskey at their distillery in Vermont, and this bottle of Farmstock Rye is their first release using their in-house distilled spirits. So how does it compare to their sourced offerings?
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.
WhistlePig is a distillery that made its name using sourced Canadian whiskey, but always had a plan to distill their own stuff in-house eventually. They started distilling in 2017 and this Farmstock Rye (and associated bourbon) are their very first products to incorporate spirits grown and distilled on their Vermont-based farm into a finished product available for sale.
For the local in-house distilled portion of this whiskey, they start with a crop of 100% rye that is grown and harvested on WhistlePig’s own farm. That rye grain is milled and cooked using locally sourced Vermont water from their own well, then fermented and batch distilled to create the raw rye whiskey. That raw spirit is then placed into Vermont-sourced oak barrels and allowed to mature for a minimum of three years.
This combination of Vermont based components — the rye, the water, and the oak barrels — is why they call this their “triple terroir” spirit, as there are three major components all sourced from Vermont that each have a huge impact on the resulting flavor.
Once appropriately aged, the spirit is blended with a 6 year old and a 10 year old imported Canadian rye whiskey from Alberta, Canada to produce the finished product you see here today.
I really like this bottle — it provides everything that you would want from a whiskey bottle.
Starting with the shape, it’s an interesting, visually appealing design. The bottle is slim in depth, but 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 shelves 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 is designed to show it off as much as possible. The main label is a wide green strip near the bottom 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.
This smells like a good standard rye whiskey. There’s a ton of brown sugar in here, followed by some cinnamon, vanilla, black pepper spice, crisp apple, and a hint of orange citrus. And that brown sugar aroma almost has a slightly charred tinge to it (probably from the barrels they used), which makes it smell similar to that crunchy caramel shell you’ll find on top of a creme brulee.
After taking a sip, I’m actually going to go with “surprisingly spicy creme brulee” as my description of the flavor as well. It starts with some orange citrus and black pepper spice, but then the brown sugar and caramel start to kick in and bring along this creamy texture that seems to coat the top of your tongue. The result is like an orange creamsicle… but one coated with black pepper.
That black pepper spice is what lingers on the finish, giving it a nice spicy texture as the flavor fades.
This bottle pulls off a pretty neat trick: with the added ice, I can actually taste more of the raw rye grains, which gives it this “rye bread” like flavor profile. The rest of the flavors can basically be summed up as a little bit of brown butter, some cinnamon, and a dash of vanilla.
On repeated trips to the well, I can start to pick out some of the other minor characters still making an appearance, such as the orange citrus and crisp apple. They provide a bit of character and levity to the flavor profile, especially near the finish, but their power is significantly diminished with the added ice.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
I actually think that this cocktail is a little off the mark, which is an unfortunate miss for WhistlePig.
What this has been missing from the beginning is some of the depth and richness that I’ve seen in other versions of their spirit. That darker character is what really makes for a good old fashioned, balancing out the herbaceous bitters and usually bringing some darker fruity notes with it for some variety in the flavor profile.
What we have here is fine — there are enjoyable flavors, like apple and vanilla, mixing with the bitters — but it needs some sugar to avoid being too bitter and there isn’t a whole lot going on outside of those main components. I feel like this needs some extra orange citrus to really make it pop, and maybe even a hit of port wine for some of that depth and character.
(Follow up: I did try it with some port wine. I liked it much better — but my wife did not. So a mixed outcome, I guess?)
This drink seems to be what this whiskey was born to do.
There are plenty of flavors up front, from the orange citrus to the brown sugar, that help to tame the ginger beer and lime juice and make the flavor profile much more enjoyable without losing that enjoyable bite. And as the flavor develops, there’s just enough of the black pepper spice remaining to give it a kick on the finish with a deliciously spicy texture.
What this is missing is the same thing as we saw missing from the old fashioned: the darker notes of the spirit. There’s not much in the way of dark fruits or smoke, and as a result the flavor profile here is a bit uninspired. It isn’t bad, it’s just not what I would expect at this price point.
Let me start here: this is a good bottle of rye whiskey. It has everything you’d want from a standard rye, and it handles itself well. There are some interesting flavors when taken neat, and it even performs well in a cocktail. But I don’t think this has the depth or the richness of some of the other versions of WhistlePig that I’ve tried, and that I think is this bottle’s biggest challenge.
At this price point, WhistlePig is competing with itself. Their 10 year straight rye whiskey is only a little more money and way more delicious, which leaves this bottle in an odd spot. It is interesting because of the brand name and the production method, but otherwise there isn’t much to recommend it against the competition.
This whiskey is a hard won triumph for WhistlePig and they should be damn proud. Making a good rye from grain to glass is a tough challenge and they pulled it off. As a home consumer, this is worth a try for that reason alone… but it might not warrant a second bottle at this price point.
|WhistlePig Farmstock Rye Whiskey|
Produced By: WhistlePigProduction Location: Vermont, United States
Classification: Rye Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 43% ABV
Price: $74.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
A spicy, orange-y creme brulee flavor that has some delicious notes taken neat but lacks the depth and complexity of other WhistlePig offerings.