WhistlePig is a premium brand of rye whiskey from Vermont. First released in 2010 under the leadership of the late whiskey legend David Pickerell, the distillery developed a flavorful straight rye whiskey that made a splash on the American market. The timing was perfect because there was a tremendous resurgence in rye whiskey, and WhistlePig has since grown to offer a portfolio full of impressive ryes. The brand once used the phrase "rugged grain refined" and it is an accurate description of what you will find in every bottle of WhistlePig.
- Ingredients: Rye
- Proof: 86–107.8
- ABV: 43–53.9%
- Calories in a shot: 104
- Origin: Vermont
- Taste: Rye spice, oak, caramel
- Aged: 6 to 18 years
- Serve: straight-up, on the rocks, cocktails, shots
What Is WhistlePig Made From?
Raj Peter Bhakta founded WhistlePig in 2007 after purchasing a dairy farm in Shoreham, Vermont. He teamed up with former Maker's Mark Master Distiller David Pickerell (a legend in American whiskey who passed away in 2018) to develop a rye whiskey that took on the farm's new name. The goal was to create a single malt, single estate whiskey using the farm's organically grown rye.
Any whiskey takes time to develop using ideal methods; WhistlePig is a good example of quick sourcing and perseverance. The first bottles were released in 2010 after Pickerell found a Canadian rye whiskey that met his standards.
While aging and hand-bottling have taken place on the farm since the beginning, it was not until 2014 that WhistlePig received permission to build their own distillery. Featuring a copper pot still designed by Pickerell, the distillery has been in full operation since 2015.
It takes years for whiskey to age, so WhistlePig remains a sort of work-in-progress. Whiskey is distilled on-site, and they continue to source rye whiskey from Alberta. This is used in the 10 Year expression and some of the blended rye whiskeys crafted by the master blender.
The distillery uses what they call a "Triple Terroir" philosophy. This trademarked term means the grain (distilled on-site), water, and oak are sourced from the farm. The new oak barrels that all the whiskeys hit first are made from trees harvested in Vermont. The theory is that the shorter growing season develops more growth rings in the trees, adding flavor to the whiskeys.
For the original 10-year-old whiskey, WhistlePig implemented a two-barrel aging process to further show off the spicy rye. The first round happens in the new oak barrels, and the second in used bourbon barrels. Subsequent expressions use other finishing barrels to great effect.
What Does WhistlePig Taste Like?
Each WhistlePig expression is slightly different, but they have a collective signature taste. The rye imparts an intriguing spiciness that makes this whiskey style notable. Dark fruit notes accent soothing caramel and vanilla that waft in and out of the nose and palate. The whiskeys provide a long, rich, and warming finish.
Initially, WhistlePig was a one-bottle distillery. It now offers several different whiskeys, all of which are worth exploring.
- 10 Year Rye Whiskey: The original offering, this whiskey was initially called WhistlePig 100-100 Straight Rye Whiskey. It is Canadian rye whiskey that is aged at WhistlePig in new American oak then former bourbon barrels. Very bold and flavorful, it is bottled at 50 percent alcohol by volume (ABV, 100 proof).
- Old World Cask Finish Whiskey: The 12-year-old expression is a blend of rye whiskeys. Each is first aged in new American oak, then finished in casks that once housed port wine, French Sauternes, or Madeira. A treatment often seen in Scotch whisky, the barrelling results in honey-kissed fruit notes and a dark chocolate finish. The strength is a pleasant 86-proof.
- 15 Year Straight Rye Whiskey: This expression offers a full appreciation of the distillery's Triple Terroir. It is finished in the "Vermont Estate Oak" and bottled at 92 proof. The taste is warm and rich with butterscotch and spice notes.
- Double Malt Rye Whiskey: Aged for 18 years, a portion of the mashbill uses malted rye and barley—the heat of malting imparts earthy and floral notes. The finished 92-proof whiskey is a blend of 79 percent rye, 15 percent malted rye, and 6 percent malted barley.
- WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye Whiskey: Developed by Pickerell in 2018, this rye whiskey is his ideal age and strength for cocktails. The blend is made of rye whiskeys aged at least six years and bottled at a very specific 96.56 proof.
- Homestock Whiskey: The lone departure from straight rye, Homestock is a crowd-sourced blended whiskey. With the help of the distillery's fans, a blend of 45 percent 4-year-old rye whiskey, with 30 percent wheat whiskey and 25 percent barley whiskey (both aged 5 years), was developed to create the 86-proof whiskey. The taste is sweet and spiced, with notes of baking spice, nuts, orange zest, and toffee.
Two of WhistlePig's offerings are limited-edition releases that change with every bottling, offering whiskey connoisseurs a new experience every time:
- Farmstock Rye Crop: This annual release shows off the Triple Terroir perfectly. Each round uses a specific rye crop, is married with hand-selected aged whiskeys, and aged in their estate oak. It's also, rather amusingly, labeled "Bottled in Barn." These whiskeys are typically bottled at 86 proof.
- Boss Hog: This series is a wonder for true fans of rye whiskey. Each edition takes on a new theme and characteristic, but they're always a powerful rye whiskey that lives up to the name. The whiskeys are bottled at barrel strength, ranging from 105.1 to 107.8 proof.
How to Drink WhistlePig Rye Whiskey
WhistlePig is a rye whiskey that is great on its own if you appreciate rye spice. When drinking it straight, you will find its bouquet opens up nicely with a little water or an ice ball. These will mellow the flavor and cut the proof down just enough to transform it into a savory sipper.
None of the WhistlePig offerings are what most drinkers would consider affordable. These are premium whiskeys with price tags to match. For that reason, it's important to treat them with respect in cocktails. The 10 Year and PiggyBack are particularly well-suited for rye whiskey cocktails. Keep the drinks simple and use them in recipes that show off the rye.
Start out with the classic whiskey cocktails that were originally intended for rye whiskey. From there, you'll know where else you want to take this whiskey.