Whistlepig isn’t a brand I expected to try anywhere outside of a bar. I often speak ad nauseum about whiskey pricing, and Whistlepig is an easy target in this respect. When a brand’s flagship bottle costs over $70, the word “premium” quickly springs to mind. In my review for said expression, I fiddled with the idea that it’s not the worst value proposition out there, depending on what you compare it to. Today, however, we’re moving up the age and price ladders with the Whistlepig 12-Year Old World Rye.
Perhaps the most curious part about Old World Rye is its finishing composition. In essence, 10-Year whiskey (allegedly from MGP) is taken and finished in three different casks for two years. Finally, the finished product (pun not intended) is proofed down to 43% ABV, or 7% lower than the 10-Year. The finishing casks in question are Port pipes (7%), French Sauternes barrels (30%), and Madeira casks (63%), with the latter being a new one for me. How much of a difference is made thanks to these added steps? Let’s find out:
Nose: Sweet and bright. Mixed berries with balanced herbal rye qualities, including mint, spice, and basil. Good amount of caramel and brown sugar, as well as a mild air of salted toffee. Reminiscent of mint and lemon Ricola cough drops.
Palate: Silky, bordering on syrupy. Manages to effectively balance easy sweetness and herbal effervescence. Bergamot. Melting berry-flavored candy with a sugary lemon note, as well as a nice supply of caramel and oak. A touch of dry mint, dark chocolate, and a whisper of sweet cinnamon.
Finish: Lengthy and warm. Caramel, honey, and brown sugar with lemon and mint residuals. Get some stewed fruit and oak. Rye spice eventually clocks in with warm pepper, but it’s almost an afterthought.
Whistlepig are two-for-two now. I already had an easy time enjoying the 10-Year, and this continues the trend with ease. The finishing process imparts some darker, sweeter flavors that make the whiskey feel fuller, but it also avoids the overly indulgent pitfalls some finished whiskeys end up in. I find this is a whiskey that doesn’t ask too much of me, but also has a lot to offer in case I’m in the mood to go exploring. You really get the best of both worlds in that sense.
Then there’s the final question bringing us full circle: pricing and value. This one’s difficult to deliver a firm answer to, since $130 for a bottle of whiskey is steep no matter how you slice it. Some might be able to find it for just over $100, but we’re still talking triple digits, and if I’m parting with that much money, my expectations aren’t going to be modest. I’ve clearly established that Old World Rye is a great whiskey—maybe even excellent, thanks to a combination of already stellar whiskey and some effective finishing magic.
Do I think these reasons ultimately justify the high sticker price? Honestly, no. When I tried this alongside the 10-Year, I kept thinking that although Old World Rye has more of the flavors and characteristics I often gravitate towards, the 10-Year had more of those classic rye qualities I look for when selecting a rye whiskey. Whistlepig already leans on the sweet side without any sort of finishing, so the final experience here ended up being about as enjoyable to me as a bottle I can get for $75 after tax. Old World Rye is great and absolutely worth trying, but unless I win the lotto or receive it as a gift, a full bottle will never see a spot in my collection.