Few brands elicit split reactions quite like Whistlepig. On one hand, praise is given to the quality of their sourced whiskey and especially their distillery tour experience. As for criticism, this primarily manifests in pricing woes. The once-baseline 10-year? $70, please. The 12-year Bespoke Rye? That’ll be $130. The 15-year Estate Oak? My Comcast bill costs less ($200). And the decorative Boss Hog? Well, if you’ve got nothing better to spend your tax refund on ($500). Since it’s abundantly clear which side of the fence I fall on, I should clarify that just because something is overpriced doesn’t mean it’s not of good quality. This is why I suspect the two aforementioned Whistlepig camps aren’t mutually exclusive. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Truth be told, the only reason I even tried Whistlepig in the first place is because I found minis at my local Walmart for $5/each. Months later I found one tasting set of three Whistlepig expressions: the 10-year, the Old World Rye, and the Estate Oak, all for $20. So today’s review is more of a revisit, or a reaffirmation of sorts. What do I mean? Let’s dig in first.
Nose: Sweet, candy-like with lemon, lime, and caramels. Easy, mellow blend of pineapple and melon with a nuanced air of rye spice. Swirling reveals more mint and pine while retaining the strong sweetness.
Palate: Buttery yet refined. Butterscotch over a bed of herbs like clove, pine, and mint, as well as some cinnamon. Lemon and lime gradually come into their own with each sip.
Finish: Herbs and spices begin taking over. Cinnamon, a tingling of oak, rye spice, mild-moderate pepper sticking around, along with mint.
I think those notes speak for themselves. Both times I’ve tried Whistlepig 10-year have been pleasant, but my revisit confirmed just how nice it tasted and felt. Out of all the ryes I’ve had, this strikes me as the perfect one to introduce someone to. Rye whiskey can take on a variety of personalities, with floral/effervescent and spicy/herbal being among the most common. Then there’s the balancing act with whiskey’s sweet nature, which is more so for American and even Canadian distillate. Whistlepig clearly leans on the sweet side, coming across like liquid candy until the finish reveals a gentle but welcoming blend of spices, herbs, and oak. To say a balancing act has been struck here would be a massive understatement.
Now the real question: How much is that balancing act worth? Let’s just say I’ve gone from never seeing a full Whistlepig bottle in my collection to snagging the recent r/bourbon pick. The experience here is on the verge of true excellence, being one of the most delightful and effortless ryes I can name. When compared to how much Michter’s 10-year Rye goes for, Whistlepig’s similarly aged offering almost comes across as budget-oriented. On the flipside, stuff like Pikesville and Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye are cheaper and effectively swap the age statement for arguably stronger, more robust flavor profiles. I believe this is the real split over Whistlepig: It’s undoubtedly great whiskey, but the price tag brings enough pause to often prompt the purchase of something else. Do I recommend it? Ultimately, yes. Just consider looking around for a mini or two.