By Kurt Maitland
Updated with new notes, January 17, 2014
On October 10th, I had the pleasure of tasting WhistlePig’s newest release – The Boss Hog. Those lucky enough to attend the launch gathered at NYC’s Flatiron Room with Dave Pickerell (WhistlePig’s Master Distiller) as he unveiled what he hopes to be an annual tradition – a release of WhistlePig’s best, in the form of Boss Hog.
A little background on WhistlePig and its Master Distiller, Dave Pickerell. WhistlePig is a small whiskey-maker located on one of Vermont’s oldest farms, and was founded by Raj Peter Bhakta. WhistlePig’s Master Distiller is a name well known in the whiskey business. Prior to his current role at WhistlePig, Dave was the longtime MD for Maker’s Mark. So let’s get to what’s he’s up to now.
The Boss Hog is definitely a boss of a rye whiskey. The release is made from 24 of WhistlePig’s oldest and best barrels. The Boss Hog is a 12 ½ years old and it hits you with a double barrel shot of 100% single grain rye whiskey. It’s smooth considering that it’s 134 proof. A more mellow burn than my beloved Booker’s with a beautiful cinnamon and clove singed finish that sampled neat will linger like nothing you’ve tasted before. With a little water, notes of fruit begin to appear.
The Boss Hog is a hell of a rye. If you are a rye fan, you need to seek this out. If you are not a rye fan, you should give it a try but it might hurt you, in a good way, of course.
Addendum by Richard Thomas
My own look at WhistlePig’s Boss Hog showed me an all-rye whiskey with a middling copper coloring, akin to what one might see from a cooking pot in a high-end kitchen wares shop. The nose balanced creamy vanilla against a fruity sweetness, thickly seasoned with sarsaparilla, tinged with a little musty wood. My first sip, however, told me that this whiskey needed some water.
My palate dictates that the more the proof climbs above 120 (60% abv), the more likely it is that a whiskey needs a little home cutting to make the best of it, and at 134 proof (67% abv), WhistlePig’s Boss Hog was certainly no exception. A half-capful of water brought the burn under control, and revealed a well-balanced flavor with dry wood working hand-in-hand with cinnamon and clove spicy red fruits, underscored by the slightest tobacco note.