Whistlepig

Review: Whistlepig Piggyback 100% Rye Aged 6 Years by Jason Hambrey

ABV
48.28%
Aging
6 Yrs; Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This is a whistlepig that didn’t really even touch Vermont where the farm is! It’s made in Alberta, imported, and bottled in New York. But, no matter - that is disclosed and Whistlepig knows how to select good rye. This rye is pot-distilled and is 6 years old.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2021

What an amazing rich, spicy nose! I love it. Citrusy, spicy – but very earthy and herbal. Lots of charred oak, too. It really is a core expression of what Alberta pot still rye tastes like – so deep and complex and herbal. It’s unlike some of the other Alberta distillates – like the Canadian club 100% rye or the cask strength version which are dominated by this bright, candied fruit character. This is all the base notes, and I love it. It’s similar in profile to the other whistlepigs from Alberta or Masterson’s. What incredible spiciness!

Onto some quick  tasting notes – the nose has orange peel, oak, vanilla, caramel, baking spices, arugula, and light smoke. The palate is rich, with a huge backbone of oak, arugula, baking spice, watercress, orange peel, and pepper. The finish is sharp, with intense pepper fading to watercress, baking spice, and sweet oak.

This is some good pot still rye… obviously, I like this – it’s my favourite style of Canadian whisky – but how does it compare to some others like Masterson’s? It’s sharper and spicier – not as complex, subtle, or refined – but it packs a bit more punch in terms of sharpness. More caramel too – but you need a bit more of that with all the spice.

Terrific for the price – the list of whiskies like this under $50 in Ontario are quite slim. I love to sip as is, but this would do a nice trick in cocktails too.

Highly Recommended (50% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very high at $45.


Review: Hillrock Estate Distillery Solera Aged Bourbon (Sauternes Finished) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46.3%
Aging
~6 yrs; Charred virgin oak, refill oak, and sauternes casks
Recipe
Bourbon (37% Rye)
Producer Hillrock Estates (Ancram, New York)

Hillrock Estates is in the Hudson Valley in New York State, and certainly "craft” – they grow their own grain, do their own floor maltings, and are doing some creative things – they are using a solera system (the only bourbon I know of to do this) which is a process coming from sherry production where barrels are never fully drained – only part of the barrel is drained and new spirit is added to mature. Thus, a solera spirit has a variety of ages in it – all the way to a minute percentage of the original batches. Glenfiddich 15 Year Old does this with Scotch, and has achieved quite a wonderful product in doing so. This whisky is also sauternes finished – at the least, all of this leads me to be very intrigued! Dave Pickerell, notable distiller of Makers Mark and establisher of Whistlepig, is now at the helm here, too. Hillrock started out with sourced bourbon, and I am not sure if this is produced or sourced – likely sourced, for now, as it smells quite mature.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016

The nose has sweet notes of corn, rye, dried apricot, marshy earth, white grape, pear, and lots of spice. A rich, complex, buttery sweetness comes out too – likely from the sauternes – and it does a wonderful trick. The spices almost seem to be in the category of tequila – very interesting. I find bourbon to be a bit of a limited category because of the regulations, and consequently I find it often cannot rival the complexity of Scotch of Canadian – but whiskies like this tend to expand that category. A remarkable nose. The palate is complex, combining earthy corn, spicy rye, oak, and loads of spices - roasted jalapeno, clove, sharp cinnamon – along with milk chocolate, caramel, and a bit more pear. The finish is buttery, yet full of spices and grain notes and light woody incense. Wonderful stuff – this is a micro-distillery product that competes with some of the best of the big guys!

Highly Recommended (48% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low, at $137.


Review: Whistlepig The Boss Hog Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Whistlepig The Boss Hog.jpg
ABV
60.3%
Aging
14 Years; Virgin Charred Oak & Refill Scotch Casks
Recipe
100% Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

Whistlpig has released three "Boss Hogs" - a collection of their best rye whiskies, released at cask strength. The first edition was released in 2013, a 12 year old, with a 13 year old to follow in 2014. This, now, is the third edition, a 14 year old which was finished in a 250 litre ex-scotch hogshead (holding Sherry before the Scotch). 30 barrels have been released, all at the barrel strength. If you want to discover the bracing power of 100% rye at cask strength, this is one of the only places you can find it (the only, in fact, to my knowledge not produced by a micro-distiller).


Review (2016)

  • Batch: "The Independent", Barrel 10

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The nose is rich and dark at first, with lovely caramel, rich oak, and some brilliant oiliness. Sturdy oak here, too…lovely spices – dill, licorice root, clove, cinnamon, watercress, pepper, fenugreek seed – and our typical arugula. The palate is measured, full of rye, with oak in the background. Very vegetal – we have our arugula and fenugreek again, but with oaky vanilla transporting all of the flavors into a dry and spice-laden finish which even has a bit of jalapeno. Brilliant complexity!

Absolutely terrific at cask strength. Lots of cinnamon on the nose, our caramel continues, rich grain, dry caramel, grassy spiciness…the palate is full of rye, toasted spices, and loaded with arugula and watercress. A very peppery finish. At first I thought this was over-oaked with some of the bitterness, but actually it is just about right with the tannins providing brilliant structure for the spices and caramel. The oak has tempered the spirit nicely – this isn’t as hot as I would have expected given the proof. Terrific stuff.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Very Low. $400 is not cheap.


Review: Whistlepig 15 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

Whistlepig 15.jpg
ABV
46%
Aging
15 Yrs; New Charred Oak & Bourbon Barrels & New Charred Vermont Oak
Recipe
100% Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

Whistlepig is getting closer and closer to having their own grain to glass rye whiskey on the market, but, in the meantime, they've released a number of ryes from Alberta and MGP (in Indiana) stock. Generally, it's easy to tell which is which because the alberta is 100% rye (such as the 10 year old) and MGP is 95% rye (such as the Old World Series).

The 15 year old is Whistlepig's oldest product to date, being triple matured - first in a charred new oak cask, then in a refill bourbon barrel, and finally in a heavily charred Vermont oak barrel. Whistlepig's quest is for the "perfect rye" and experimentation with aging abounds - but this also adds to the list of whisky which has been matured in 2 different new charred oak barrels, showing the emphasis on oak coming from the US these days.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Woody and sweet on the nose, with lots of vanilla-laden oak and apple. Some peppery vegetal notes like arugula and watercress are at the fore – lots in fact – with lots of caramel, wood, and marmelade. Some nice medicinal notes too, and lots of spices - even some fenugreek. At the core, though, there are three main elements which strive with one another on this nose: wood, rye, and sweet caramel or wood sugar. The palate is quite sweet, with very sharp rye both in terms of spice and in terms of vegetal notes – but it is lightly bitter with all that oak. Creamy wood notes come in mid-palate to smooth out the sharpness of the rye. It finishes nicely with strong oak, dark cacao, arugula, spinach, and dill pickle. Quite sweet, once again, with all of that oak.

This follows the recent trend of very highly oaked whiskies. If you like lots and lots of oak, here is your whisky, otherwise I think a lot of the complex distillate is masked with the all-consuming oak. Though rye is big enough to stand up to quite a bit of oak, this is slightly over the edge and brings in too much bitterness and sharpness for good balance. Still, though, very enjoyable.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. Pretty steep stuff (~250$ CAD).


Review: Whistlepig Old World 12 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
12 Years; Finished in Madeira, Port, and Sauternes Casks
Recipe
95% Rye
Distiller MGP (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)

After experimenting with different cask finishes, Whistlepig setted on blending a ratio of 63% madeira finished rye, 30% sauternes finished rye, and 7% port finished rye. And then dropped the ABV to 43%....


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Very complex on the nose. Wine gums, mint, oak, and quite a lot of candied fruit. Though the port is the smallest component, it certainly pulls its weight here. Charred oak, rye(but it doesn't dominate), dried fruit, and cola.

The palate is lightly sour, and there’s not quite enough rye – if you ask me – but lots of wood(s), and a fairly good and rich dried fruit, almost chutneyed character. It is unique…but soft, too, particularly for Whistlepig. The palate is a bit too watery – if you ask me – with more wine gums, a bit of tannins, and – on the finish – a few tannins and oak, with some grape ju-jubes. As you can tell, this reminds me quite a bit of candy…and here on the finish we finally get a bit of rye alongside some red wine tannin– and it is my favorite part of the whisky. But….why 43%? A bit too sweet and soft for my preferences, particulary with rye. I prefer the Madeira finish.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Low. Pretty steep stuff. (~190$ CAD)