Thursday, February 20, 2014
WhistlePig Boss Hog: Have You Seen the Little Piggies?
A lot of times when I write about craft whiskeys, I really like the people who make the whiskey, but I don't like the whiskey itself. With WhistlePig, a non-craft whiskey dressed up in craft clothing, it's the opposite. I like the whiskey, but the guy who sells the stuff is a real piece of work. The owner of the brand is Raj Bhakta, a reality TV star and failed politician who was mentored by Donald Trump, which explains a lot. Bhakta recently gave an embarrassing interview to Bloomberg News in which he came out with gems like, "If you look at American whiskeys, traditionally speaking, you don't see an age statement on the bottle." Er, what? And in the whole interview, he talks a lot about American whiskey but never mentions that his whiskey is made in Canada.
All of that being said, I very much liked the first iteration of WhistlePig, though that likely has very little to do with Mr. Bhakta and everything to do with WhistlePig "Master Distiller" Dave Pickerell, formerly of Maker's Mark, who is the brains behind many successful whiskey start-ups.
WhistlePig's latest release is the Boss Hog, a 12 year old cask strength, single barrel rye that is finished in bourbon barrels and sells for an eye popping price. As with all of the WhistlePig whiskeys, it's 100% rye, which indicates it is likely of Canadian provenance, though the bottle has no statement of origin. The bottle lists a series as well as a barrel; keep in mind that as with all single barrel offerings, the different barrels may vary.
WhistlePig Boss Hog, 12 years old, Spice Dancer series, Barrel 3, 67.3% abv ($160)
The nose has a whiff of that pickle juice that's typical in these Canadian ryes but with a bit of vanilla as well. The palate has a nice balance of sweet and spicy rye notes, caramel and plenty of brine but the brine overwhelms by late palate. A drop of water brings out the vanilla notes and really enhances it, smoothing out some of the rough edges. The finish is briny and slightly bitter.
This is very similar to the standard WhistlePig. It's exactly what you would expect from a cask strength version. I actually prefer the standard 10 year old which has more balance. The brine in this one tends to take over.
While this is a good rye, it's hard to recommend at this price point. I don't see many advantages of this over the regular ten year old, which is half the price. Then again, if you really want a 10 to 15 year old cask strength rye, there aren't a lot of other options.