From north of the border, up old Canada way, comes a rye whiskey of soul enriching complexity and taste. Meet the Whistlepig, eh.
Like everyone else on planet Earth I am a huge fan of Breaking Bad and during one of my Netflix meth marathons I noticed Hank and Gomez drinking a whiskey I had never seen before. As it happens, Vince Gilligan describes WhistlePig as his favourite whiskey on the now deleted ‘Breaking Bad Insider’ podcast. I mentioned this to my wife and thought nothing more of it. Fast forward a few months to Christmas day and I found this gorgeous gift under the tree.
I had assumed it was going to be a bourbon but as it turns out it’s a rye whiskey, in fact one of the few 100% pure ryes available. Due to only needing 51% rye to qualify, most rye whiskey contains little more than this. In this case purity equals quality. Rye has gone from a prohibition bathtub beverage to the toast of the high end cocktail-mongers. Though it works fantastically for cocktails such as my personal favourite, the Old Fashioned, Whistlepig deserves to shine on its own.
The Whistlepig distillery hails from Shoreham, Vermont and is owned by Raj Bhakta, an ex-Apprentice contestant. He has made up for this by bringing former Makers Mark master distiller Dave Pickerell on board to produce this phenomenal drink. The whiskey itself is produced in Alberta, Canada and bottled in Vermont, USA. As if William Shatner wasn’t the greatest gift a country could give to the world, now Canada gives us this.
At 50% alcohol, it is aged for 10 years in American oak barrels. The first thing that strikes you is how smooth it is. Its spiced woody character belies its strength. Go careful with this one as it goes down very easily.
Spice is enrobed in toffee with a hint of mint. To rhyme is not a crime.
Burnt toffee and rich butterscotch are the first flavours that joust with the tongue. There is the ever-present bread like character of rye whiskey but in this case it is very much in the background. This mellows to a spicy blend of cinnamon and nutmeg, like a cinnamon swirl clashing heads with an egg custard. This complex sweet taste just melts away leaving a fantastic aftertaste that reminds me of falling asleep with a Werther’s Original in your mouth.
This is a high-end whiskey that has thankfully come down in price a lot since I first tried it. I would say that it is reassuringly expensive though, which is a phrase I just came up with and didn’t at all steal from a popular advertising campaign. Buy some today and find out what all the fuss is aboot. 4/5