WhistlePig Rye Whiskey
Because of our porous northern border and common popular culture, Canadians often come to seek fame and fortune in the United States. Once here, unlike many other immigrants, they tend to assimilate quickly to such an extent that the American public doesn't realize that they hail from the nation to the north. They remain here, indistinguishable from US citizens, until they utter the stray "aboat" or drop a reference to a "bag of milk." Who are these covert Canadians? Well, there are too many to name, but they include Peter Jennings, William Shatner, Pamela Anderson, Jim Carrey, Alanis Morissette, Dan Aykroyd, the late Leslie Nielsen, Dr. Whisky and many others.
Add to this list another covert Canadian: WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey. It looks American, is bottled in Vermont, uses the American spelling of whiskey and has the American designation of "straight rye," but this seemingly US whiskey is actually Canadian.
WhistlePig is the brainchild of Dave Pickerell, formerly the Master Distiller of Maker's Mark. Pickerell started the WhistlePig Distillery in Vermont, but like many craft distillers, he chose to bottle a sourced whiskey as his first product. He found one in Canada. I should note that while there has been some confusion about WhistlePig, Dave is open about its sourcing and the back label states, albeit in small type, that it is imported from Canada.
WhistlePig is a 100% rye whiskey, and it really is a straight rye, albeit one with an unusual high rye content in the mashbill, as opposed to a typical, blended Canadian whisky. Even Canadian whiskies that are 100% rye are blends of a "flavor whisky" and a higher proof, more neutrally flavored whiskey used as a blending agent. WhistlePig is solely composed of the flavor whiskey without any of the blending whiskey. That is what differentiates WhistlePig from other Canadian whiskies bottled by US companies, such as Pendleton, Snake River Stampede or Buffalo Trace's Canadian bottlings. Now, let's taste it.
WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey, 10 years old, 50% abv ($72).
There is a fabulous nose on this with, unsurprisingly, a big kick of rye spice. I also get some briny notes, like pickle juice. The flavor starts sweet, then you get the rye kick, much more in the traditional rye fashion, followed by some herbal and medicinal notes, and then the brine, which fades into the finish. This is a very nice rye, and very unique tasting due to the briney notes, which I enjoyed. If I had to compare it to anything it would be some of the High West whiskeys with very high rye contents. I love these high rye mashbills because they really come out swinging with plenty of big, spicy rye.
This Canadian has fully assimilated into the American style. There is no question that it is much closer to straight rye than any Canadian whisky. I guess that's why they spell it with an "e".
Actually the youngest whiskey in the blend is ten years old. There are much older ones in it. Whistle Pig is an excellent rye, very complex. Pricey at $60, but worth it. I have a bottle sitting here on my desk. Dave, a friend of mine, did a excellent job sourcing the barrels. They wanted to get some great product out on the market while the whiskey they will be aging over the next few years is in the barrel. Just two weeks ago I was at a party with him and distillery owner Raj, and I got to play with the two Whistle Pig mascots, Mortimer and Maude, two of the cutest baby kune kune piglets.