Booze of the Month: WhistlePig Rye Whiskey

A whole lot of Vermont goes into each bottle.

Let’s face it, skiers are more like rye than corn. Just look at the way rye grows: it’s a sturdy plant, the crop is lean, and, put simply, rye is tough. While some two-plankers might enjoy bourbon in their favorite après glass, they may be better off drinking a spirit made with rye to build some real character. Besides, a lot of rye is grown in western Canada, a more native environment to skiers than the American corn belt.

That’s why Vermont’s WhistlePig Rye might be the perfect whiskey for skiers. It’s made from 100 percent rye grain, aged in American oak, and has a flavorful, unique spice that really stokes the furnace on a cold winter day. The brand started in 2007 by taking 10-year-old Canadian blending whiskey and aging it in select casks in Vermont. Now the company has matured to make its own in-house, Triple-Terroir blend. And on top of all this, WhistlePig’s three flagship whiskeys include options that rival bourbon, dress up like Scotch, and give you a taste of a perfect rye whiskey. If you’re a fan of mixology, you absolutely need a bottle of proper rye to work with in your Manhattan and Old-Fashioned repertoire.

WhistlePig’s headquarters are located on a 150-year-old renovated dairy farm in Shoreham, Vt. The 500-acre property is a little more than an hour drive from the slopes of Stowe and features a copper pot designed by the late Master Distiller Dave Pickerell. Speaking of Stowe, WhistlePig has a tasting room just down the road from the gondola in Waterbury, a great spot to dip your toes into what might be the best rye whiskey on the planet.

Here are some cheater notes so you can impress the bartender during your next rye tasting session, either in Waterbury or anywhere else you see WhistlePig behind the bar.

WhistlePig Bottles
The WhistlePig 10 Year, Old World Cask Finish, and the 15 Year.Photo courtesy of WhistlePig

WhistlePig Rye 10 Year

The 100-proof, 10-year-aged WhistlePig Rye is the brand’s flagship whiskey. Made using the 10-year-old Canadian blending whiskey that the company started with, the distillers age it in new American Oak staves with a bourbon barrel finish at the Shoreham farm. We taste-tested it and compared it to a few other American rye whiskeys and—spoiler—WhistlePig’s Rye knocked our socks off compared to the rest. Best served neat, with a cube of ice, or in a cocktail, it’s hard to go wrong with a pour of the WhistlePig Rye 10 Year Rye on a cold winter day.

  • Nose
    • Allspice, orange peel, anise, oak, char and caramel.
  • Palete
    • Sweet; hints of caramel and vanilla, followed by rye ­spice and mint.
  • Finish
    • Long finish; warm butterscotch and caramel.

WhistlePig Old World Cask Finish

If the WhistlePig 10 Year Rye was made to rival bourbon, then the complex, 12-year-aged Old World Cask Finish was created to take a crack at the snobbish world of Single Malt whiskey. This whiskey blend uses Port, French Sauternes, and Madeira casks to smooth and enhance the flavor of the rye, while remaining bold and expansive on the tongue and throughout the finish. Take the WhistlePig Old World Cask 12 Year Rye neat, or with a splash of Vermont spring water, to get the full sensation.

  • Nose
    • Caramel, vanilla, and winter fruit.
  • Palete
    • Rye spice, apricots, plums, raisins, dates, and honey.
  • Finish
    • Dark chocolate, winter fruit, caramel, and vanilla.

WhistlePig Rye 15 Year

Because the 10 year is made to take on bourbon, and the Old World Cask Finish is designed to rival Single Malt, WhistlePig wanted to set the bar high for what a fine rye whiskey should be. They did that, with deft expertise, with their 15 year. The secret is that the company aged this whiskey in Vermont oak staves, which were made from trees harvested from their farm in Shoreham. Thanks to the infamously brisk winters, Vermont oak ages much more densely than oak grown further south, which adds a level of flavor that made us fall in love with this whiskey. Order the WhistlePig 15 Year Rye neat, savor the flavor, and start saving up to buy a bottle of your own.

  • Nose
    • Deep and rich, dominated by caramel, vanilla, and oak with hints of allspice and burnt orange.
  • Palete
    • Warm, rich, and slightly creamy. Loads of butterscotch and baking spice, with leather and a hint of tobacco.
  • Finish
    • Ultra long and rich, warm, and inviting.

Outside of their flagship triplet of rye whiskeys, WhistlePig also makes a lovable Farmstock Rye blend, which uses the farm’s own rye crop, oak trees, and Vermont water. This 100 percent WhistlePig Triple-Terroir pours nicely into any whiskey glass or cocktail you can think of.

At the opposite end of the spectrum sits The Boss Hog V, a super limited edition, 13-year-old whiskey aged in select Calvados casks, where it gains incredibly robust flavors. At about $600 a bottle, The Boss Hog V walks the walks, and we especially love the collaboration WhistlePig is doing with Parlor Custom Skis, which includes a bottle of The Boss Hog V with the purchase of select custom skis.

Author’s Note: If you have a bottle of The Boss Hog V that you’re planning on not drinking, please send me an email and I can help make room in your liquor cabinet.