Updated January 22, 2016
By S.D. Peters
The newest edition in WhistlePig’s fine line of Straight Rye Whiskey, Old World Rye is a blend of Ryes finished in French Sauternes, Madeira and Port casks, each one previously released in distinct limited editions. The combined 12 Year Old expression, however, is a regular release. The Old World blend, which came out on June 26, 2015, brings a touch of uisge beatha’s Old World tradition to its New World cousin.
Old World Rye is sourced from 12-year aged whiskey drawn from the ubiquitous 95% rye mashbill stock of the MGP Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. As mentioned above, the whiskey is then finished in Madeira, French Sauternes, and Port casks at WhistlePig Farm. The final blend is composed of 63% Madeira, 30% French Sauternes, and 7% Port finishes, nicely balancing the limited Old World Series releases that The Whiskey Reviewer rated A+, A-, and A, respectively. The final product is hand-bottled at 90 Proof, in bottles of the same stately design used for other WhistlePig expressions.
The Old World Series is a classic golden copper in the glass. The nose is ripe with peach and apricot, tempered with oak bark, a vein of caramel and a mild mint garnish; the Madeira finish dominates here. The French Sauternes and Port finishes save their influence for the flavor: maple sugar, sea-salty vanilla fudge, and wild winter berries. A dash of cracked Tellicherry peppercorns, however, is a satisfying reminder of the Madeira’s defining role in this Rye.
It all comes together in a smooth, progressive finish that lingers long and warm. Grapefruit (Madeira), chocolate nibs (Port), and the clear, crisp birch beer of the French Sauternes transcends WhistlePig’s belief that “Rye holds the greatest potential of all distilling grains.” This is pretty clear evidence that it’s a fact.
Addendum By Richard Thomas
I am not quite as enthusiastic about the WhistlePig Old World 12YO as Scott, but perhaps that reflects that I merely enjoy a good rye, whereas he adores one. I was also unfamiliar with the constituent finishes brought together in the standard release, and came at it as a stand alone whiskey.
I too found the nose deeply scented with dried apricots on a base of caramel, marked with musty wood and seasoned with pinches of mint and ginger. The mixture of wood finished really comes across in the nose, and shows a measure of sophistication. The flavor was tart and spicy, with the ginger and mint leaping to the forefront. The sweeter aspects of the nose dropped back. The finish has a crisp, fruity character, and leaves a low-but-lingering warmth.
WhistlePig’s 12 Year Old World Rye is available online and from select distributors throughout the U.S. for approximately $118.