For the first time this year, we venture to North America for some rye whiskey as we continue to make our way through the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar…
Christmas can often be a time of fierce debate. Why do we persist with Brussel sprouts? Is Die Hard a Christmas film? Who invited the weird uncle again?
But some things are a matter of fact. Rye whiskey is delicious, for example. That’s a fact. Its revival in recent years is most welcome. There’s another. Whistlepig makes superb rye whiskey that should be celebrated and is more than worthy of a place in a whiskey-based Advent Calendar. All facts.
Speaking of which, behind window #7 of you Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is… WhistlePig 10 Year Old!
WhistlePig 10 Year Old is straight rye whiskey which was distilled and initially matured in Canada before being aged further, at the WhistlePig Farm in Vermont. To tell us more about the dram behind window #7 is the wonderful Peter Lynch, master blender for WhistlePig.
Master of Malt: Tell us why you love WhistlePig 10 Year Old.
Peter Lynch: The 10 Year Old is the quintessential rye for so many reasons. There’s a lot of spice character, which has typically been the hallmark of rye whiskey, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to the time it spent resting in new, charred American oak, we’ve pulled a lot of wonderful barrel notes: caramels, vanillins, clove, and plenty of oak spice. The distillate character still shines through quite strongly, with that spice, a nice grassy character, some soft, floral notes, and a great mild sweetness that works beautifully with the wood sugars and tannin pulled from the cask. The ten year is an age stated whiskey, but for us, age statements are something of a minimum entry-level requirement for our whiskey to get into the bottle. It has to hit all the right flavours, first and foremost. When we look for casks when we produce a batch of 10 year, we’re looking for the proper mix to hit all these sides of the spectrum that the 10 year presents. With such a range of flavours, it’s that much more important to be vigilant with stewarding the maturation of casks, ensuring they don’t pull too much from the oak, as well the marrying of barrels prior to bottling, to hit that flavour profile perfectly.
MoM: Talk us through the signature Whistlepig character…
PL: WhistlePig’s identity is that of premium rye… but what the hell does that mean? For one, we’re giving you the best that rye has to offer in terms of flavour in bottle, period. That’s been our mission from day one. However, equally important to us is educating our fans on exactly what rye whiskey can be. We’ve typically only seen a few ryes in the back bar, all with a classic spice forward profile, but rye can be so much more than that. Rye is inherently fruity, grassy, herbaceous, floral, sweet, and yes, spicy – but not just peppery spice; we’re talking baking spices: cinnamon, cardamom, allspice and even baking chocolates. The world of whiskey hasn’t had the opportunity to taste this variety in rye until recently and, as we do, we learn, and as we learn, we want to try new, exciting, and different styles of rye. In our portfolio, you’ll see all these sides, from our flagship 10, to our sweet, fruity, elegant 12, to our spicy, oaky, robust 15 year, and our lighter, grassy, herbal Farmstock Rye. It’s a wonderful thing to see individuals eyes light up as they taste through our whiskeys, and truly begin to grasp what rye can be. Innovation can bring about some delicious results.
MoM: Give us some ideas/serving suggestions for how WhistlePig 10 Year Old could be enjoyed…
PL: We’re lucky to have a wonderful network of industry personnel in bars and restaurants across the world that love our products just as much as we do. Fortunately for me, they are much better at the craft of cocktails than I ever will be, and I’ll share a few classics I enjoy as often as I can. The maple old fashioned is one you’ll want to try the 10 year in. Using a classic old fashioned recipe, substitute your sugar component for equal parts maple syrup. If you’re lucky enough to have a bottle of the WhistlePig Barrel Aged Maple on hand, then you’re about to make the perfect cocktail for any occasion. I’ve been hot on the highballs this summer as well, and you’ll be surprised at how well the bold flavours of the 10 mingle with just the right amount of soda and ice, it really serves to brighten things up and bring out flavours you may not have noticed. Lastly, if you want something beautifully balanced, with some sweet, bitter, and herbal, the ten year in a Boulevardier is an absolute must-try.
MoM: What trends/developments do you think we’ll see in the whisky industry in 2020?
PL: We’re going to see a lot more craft guys really staking their claim and coming into their own, as we have been for some time now. Some of the things that excite me the most are:
– American Single Malt, and the potential for the category to bring some truly amazing, different, and lasting whiskies into our glasses and our cabinets.
– Finishing whiskey in new and innovative ways – the industry has only pushed this boundary further and further every year, and with great results.
– Ready to drink cocktails (RTD) are really coming into their own, with a few people really getting things right. It’s not easy to make these elevated drinks in a way that stays true to the flavours experienced at the bar for a lot of reasons, especially considering that a cocktail is made to drink asap. So when a brand puts something in a bottle that wows me, it’s even more impressive, and I’ve seen a few across the world the past year or two.
MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?
PL: The better question is what won’t I be drinking? Something tells me things might go a little something like this: Piggyback and eggnog (I may or may not have R&D’d this one already in anticipation of the holidays), 10 year in a maple old fashioned,15 Year with a cigar, and Boss Hog 6 with the folks to top it all off.
Thank you so much, Peter. Now onto that delicious rye!
WhistlePig 10 Year Old Tasting Note:
Nose: Fresh peppermint and herbal thyme initially, with sweet vanilla and marzipan developing. Creamy butterscotch, raspberry jam and orange rind round it off.
Palate: Warm baking spices, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice burst to life and are tempered by sweet muscovado sugar, bright oak and dark chocolate. Vanilla cola and caramel shortbread linger.
Finish: Medium-length, with warm rye spices, sweet malt and sour cherries.