By S.D. Peters
WhistlePig, purveyors of some of the finest Straight Rye Whiskey to be found, are releasing an experimental Old World Series Rye. This limited release finds Master Distiller Dave Pickerell finishing Straight Rye Whiskey in French Sauternes, Madeira, and Port casks.
It’s a meeting of Old and New. Wine and port cask finishes are an established practice in the manufacture of Scotch, the Old World’s water of life. Rye Whiskey is the New World’s First Cousin to the Scotch tradition, as Rye is also the oldest style of New World whiskey, and thus the perfect candidate for a pairing with those Old World traditions.
The French Sauternes finish, released in February 2015, is the first release in the Series. Sauternes is a rare, sweet white wine produced exclusively in Bordeaux. It’s unique qualities are well-suited to Rye’s sweetly spiced signature.
The Old World Series Ryes are sourced from a 12 year old version of the 95% rye, 5% malted barley stock of whiskey from the MGP Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. The whiskey is then finished in casks at WhistlePig Farm, and bottled at 90 Proof in bottles of the same stately design used for other WhistlePig expressions. Whiskey sourcing may be a divisive practice to some, but in the end a product like this one relies on the skill of Dave Pickerell to make it special.
The French Sauternes Finish shows a light copper in the glass. Sweet melon, berry and grape combine with a whiff of malt, giving the rye an edgy sweetness. The flavor, too is edgy: a heady saltiness, dashed with saffron. A hint of clear birch beer rounds out a crisp finish that counters any doubts it’s a Rye.
Everything about the Sauternes Finish is edgier. Rye was the preferred grain in the stills of Colonial America; a more durable substitute for barley that produced a sharper whiskey. The edge it retains in the Old World Series proves WhistlePig’s belief “the Rye holds the greatest potential of all distilling grains.”
The Sauternes Finish release is very limited, with availability only in New York, Illinois, and California. Expect to pay about $120 for a bottle if you find it.
This Rye earned Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.