I think I just fell in love with my first rye.
As you all know, I’m a big bourbon fan, but it has only been recently that I’ve been paying attention to bourbon’s ornery cousin, Rye. Though I migrated over to rye for my Manhattans and Old Fashiond a while ago, I’m currently sipping a glass of rye (neat) that I know I’ll remember for quite some time.
By a combination of luck and a tip off, my family caught wind that a handful of bottles of WhistlePig Straight Rye ($70) would make a brief appearance at The Oconee Celler, a package store in Greensboro, Ga. Considering that this bourbon in question has previously only been sold in a handful of states, Georgia previously not being one of them, this was exciting news. I placed an order, and dear old Dad came through for me. Love ya’ pops.
For those that don’t know the differences between rye and bourbon, I’ll quickly break down the important parts. Whereas the corn-heavy bourbon is sweet, smoky, velvety hug, rye is a spicy, sharp, spanking. And I mean that in the most positive and least offensive way possible.
If you want to know more about the recipe differences, use the internet. (At least 51% rye = rye whisky).
Well, WhistlePig turned out to be a complex and utterly impressive rye, and I’m almost upset, because now I have yet another bottle that I’ll have to long for most of the year due to the limited availability (I’m looking at you, Pappy.) And this pig comes with a pedigree.
Dave Pickerell, former master distiller at Maker’s Mark for 14 years, joined WhistlePig as MD solely to make rye. Rather than the usual 5-7 years, Pickerell’s rye, made from 100% un-malted rye is imported from Canada and bottled in Vermont. It spends 10 years in freshly charred American oak barrels before seeing a bottle. The extra few years were totally worth the wait.
Pickerell did a fine job of softening what is oftentimes a jolt of in-your-face spice. Rather, the slightly more mature whisky unfolds in the throat. After a strong nose of vanilla, pepper, cloves, and old leather, first thing I notice on the tongue is a wallop of spice and woodsy fire. The 100% whiskey certainly packs a punch, but they achieved a depth of flavor that will likely surprise you.
In the two years this rye has been on the market, the critics and enthusiasts have gobbled it up as quickly as it hits the shelf, and the demand is likely to outstrip the supply for a while. Moral of the story: If you ever see it on the shelf, buy it.
Anyone else tried WhistlePig? Now that I’m getting into rye, does anyone have any suggestions that I should check out?
- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog