I’m something of a procrastinator when it comes to reviewing barrel picks. There are only so many ways I can introduce and talk at length about what are literally slight variations on the same product. Consequently, I’ve put off killing certain bottles simply because I haven’t reviewed them yet. I aim to rectify that this year. The first pick I’ll be looking at for 2022 is a bottle I purchased nearly a year ago: Whistlepig “Whistle Missile,” an r/bourbon selection made available through SharedPour. It’s also been nearly as long since I last looked at something from Whistlepig.
Perhaps the most interesting part about Whistlepig’s barrel picks is how they fit into the brand’s portfolio with regards to pricing. Bottles of the 100-proof 10-Year run $70-$90, yet the picks are bottled at cask strength, can boast noticeably higher age statements, and don’t usually command much more than $100 per bottle (if that). Case in point: Whistle Missile clocks in at either 52.9% ABV or 105.7 proof (going by the label) and was distilled in January 2005, effectively making it over 15 years old. How does it fare?
Nose: Melon, honey, and mint tea. Lemon frosting complemented by a soft yet prevalent woodiness. Just a touch of pepper and clove in the background.
Palate: Sweet and fairly mild upfront before a gradual dryness creeps in. Has a unique, puffy mouthfeel. Sugar cookie, white tea, and a bit of lime tartness. Some mint and salt on the mid-palate that seems to grow with each sip.
Finish: Lengthy with a slow development of honey and lemon cookie. Muted mint accents the approachable, barely tannic wood essence that refuses to give up. The lemon frosting note from the nose eventually works its way back in.
Easily ranks among the more interesting rye whiskeys I’ve had to date. The closest comparison I can potentially make is Willett Family Estate 4-Year Rye, minus the corn notes. I get a tart essence that borders on savory, and it only becomes more difficult to shake as I continue sipping. Most ryes give me some combination of spicy and sweet flavors, and Whistle Missile contains those, but they feel slightly diminished in favor of adding this additional layer. It’s obviously different from what you might pull out of Talisker, for example, but still comes across as faintly maritime to me. This makes for a natural complement to the citrus notes while the sweeter flavors contribute more to the mouthfeel, which is my favorite part of this pick. That full, “puffy” consistency from my tasting notes is a kind I’ve seldom encountered, which I can only surmise is thanks to high age and bottling proof.
There’s a lot to appreciate in this pick. Since I primarily drink bourbons and American ryes, this was a fun (if slight) change of pace. Given the age and relatively light color, I can only surmise that the whiskey was aged in a re-used barrel. It reaps some benefits of extra aging, but handily avoids the pitfalls more common in American whiskey. I wouldn’t say it’s a personal favorite, however, since I usually gravitate towards deeper, darker flavors; Whistle Missile leans more on the light side with plenty of layering and complexity to back it up. In short: I think this is somewhat of an acquired taste, but a fun one to explore and revisit nonetheless.