All you need to know about the world’s most-awarded rye whiskey maker

Not limited by ties to the past, and located far from America’s whiskey heartland, WhistlePig is doing things its own way

‘We push boundaries in the industry to make the biggest, boldest and best whiskeys in the world,’ states WhistlePig, the independent distillery that, in Vermont, US, is veering away from trade norms. Notably, unlike many of its counterparts, there are no generations of family tradition underpinning the brand; there are no centuries-old stories, no sermons on how things have always been done. History, of course, is nice and romantic, but the past can be very limiting if wanting to push the envelope – by being liberated from the straitjacket confines of what’s come before, the venture can do things its own way: ‘We dream big, act boldly and take chances’.

Started in the late 2000s, and centred around a 150-year-old dairy farm, WhistlePig – whose name takes it cues from the Kunekune pig that had a penchant for sleeping in the barn that eventually became the distillery, with each of its snores culminating in a whistle – distinguishes itself from the pack via three key pillars: place, people and products.

Though free of any rose-tinted backstory, a large part of WhistlePig’s colourful appeal comes from its location. On that once abandoned plot of land in Shoreham, a town that’s home to a tight-knit community of little over 1,000 locals, the team has set itself far away from America’s whiskey stronghold (which is often attributed to Kentucky and Tennessee), creating breathing space for an experimental ‘playground’ to exist where creativity is the basic unit of currency. Moreover, ingredients and materials, such as pewter toppers, oak barrels and maple syrup, are sourced from nearby in a sustainable way, imbuing each bottle with a sense of locale.

Equally as industry-leading is the fact that the company is spearheaded by a cadre of women – Emily, the brand ambassador; Meghan, the lead distiller; Liz, in charge of all things invention – who, as the youngest whiskey-making team in the industry, aren’t confined by conventions. Experimental crops are used, manifold barrels are drawn upon – ‘I’ll put whiskey in any kind of barrel once,’ says Meghan – and mistakes are just part of the game; after all, in this industry, any failed attempts can simply be sipped away.

Then, of course, comes the storied portfolio, the culmination of the land and a labour of love that debuted with the Small Batch Rye Aged 10 Years, a standard-setting high-rye bottle that showcases a big, bold, spice-heavy profile that doesn’t just take on new layers with every passing year, but, at 100 proof, is also extremely versatile. Then, there’s also the Estate Oak Rye Aged 15 Years, whose custom toast-and-char profile creates a singular, assertive expression that, we’ve been told, pairs perfectly well with marshmallows that have been warmed over the fire.

The bolder end of the spectrum, meanwhile, features the Old World Rye Aged 12 Years (a dovetailing of three finishes – in Madeira, Sauternes and Port barrels) as well as The Boss Hog X, a signature in the company’s innovative range as it features an unconventional double finish, the first of which is seasoned with WhistlePig’s own experimental spirit – ‘distilled from rye and whey’ and ‘infused with aromatic resins from the genera commonly known as frankincense and myrrh’, creating notes of rosemary and crème brûlée – and then in craft-mead casks, which creates a gentle, rounded end. (As a result, WhistlePig has been labelled as the most-awarded rye-whiskey brand in the world, often claiming high scores from Wine Enthusiast – the 10-year-old, for example, scooped 96 points.)

Moreover, for Fourth of July, that most prominent of American celebrations, WhistlePig invites fans in London to toast to their cousins across the ocean by visiting select partner bars and restaurants in the capital. Kicking things off is Dram Bar, on Denmark Street, where WhistlePig will be launching a week-long takeover, not only welcoming in New York’s Mister Paradise, but also offering a custom-made, summer-friendly canned cocktail that revolves around its 10-year-old whiskey.

Amaro Bar, in Kensington, will then unveil a WhistlePig menu that will be available throughout July and August (on 9 July, the venue will see famed mixologist Danil Nevsky create several original cocktails using WhistlePig’s ryes), and WhistlePig signature cocktails will also be showcased at Acme Fire Cult, Maison Assouline, Warehaus, and Callooh Callay, the aim of which is to exhibit the complex, eclectic style that the maker is so revered for.

WhistlePig

WhistlePig

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