Whistlepig has made a name for itself in the Rye Whiskey world. Initially bottling whiskey distilled in Canada, they are distilling their own stuff in Vermont but have been sourcing older stuff from MGP. Unlike many American ryes, this mashbill is all rye plus a little barley. Most American ryes have corn in the mashbill to make the mash easier to work with and clean up later. The line between rye heavy bourbon and most American ryes is often blurry on the palate.
Whistlepig is different in that regard. The only other American ryes I have found with similar mashbills are E.H. Taylor from Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey/Russell’s Reserve Rye.
Their reserve barrel program allows you to pick either their ten year old rye or rye finished in old world wine casks. Hokus Pokus went with their ten year old, nay, eleven and a half year old rye whiskey for their pick.
This weighs in at 121.1 proof. The color is a nice amber, which is light given its age but given that it is aged way north of Kentucky in Vermont for part of its aging, this is to be expected. Rich, oily, thick long legs on the swirl. Definitely well made whiskey.
On the nose, there are notes of floral herbal tea, clove, and honey. On the palate, the floral herbal tea and honey come to the fore, with cloves shining on the back end. Thick, luscious mouthfeel. Desserty in a spice cake sort of way. The cloves and spice really linger on the finish. Excellent.
What is truly sad is that most whiskies like this one, rye whiskey made with no corn in the mashbill, were for a long time relegated to being blended with pure grain alcohol for Canadian whiskey or Seagram’s Seven. The same was true for scotch whiskey until the world realized how good single malt is. Bottles like this scream that rye whiskey, sans corn, needs to stand on its own. For those reading this that are big fans of Crown Royal and other Canadian whiskies, I wish you would taste this. These are those flavors you like, totally amped up.
The other thing that really stands out for me is that this whiskey is truly excellent and it leaves me puzzled about Whistlepig’s Boss Hog series, where Whistlepig takes their excellent whiskey and they finish it in a different cask, scotch, port, brandy, whatever, and say this is their top drawer stuff. The first Boss Hogg, the Spirit of Mortimer, was a thirteen year old rye, and that was it. But subsequently, they have all been rye and something. It is as if Whistlepig has a deep psychological doubt that their whiskey can really stand on its own that stems from the old days. I actually turned down buying the Black Prince Boss Hogg release because I was like, you finished it in Armagnac casks; not worth the price. The Independent, which I did buy, was finished in Islay scotch barrels and I was hard pressed to say why this cost five times as much as High West Campfire. I hope they will gain in confidence and move the Boss Hogg series to simply long aged honey barrels of this delicious whiskey, and just let it stand on its own.
Because I agree with Hokus Pokus; this bottle is the real Black Prince. An eleven and a half year old Cask Strength Rye, not dumped in another barrel.
In short, I highly recommend cask strength barrel picks of Whistlepig Rye.