Continuing in my series of rye reviews (“Two of something is not a series,” ed.) here is a rye that scoffs at High West’s blend of 95% and 80% rye mashbills and proclaims its purity. Yes, this is 100%, bitches, you better recognize. This kind of gangsta talk which comes naturally to me (as you would readily recognize were you to meet me) is not usually associated with either Vermont or Canada, both lands not known for their blackness, either in terms of demographics or soul. Why am I dragging Vermont and Canada into this, you ask, thereby revealing that your knowledge of American whiskey is even poorer than mine? Well, it is because while this rye is sold by the WhistlePig distillery located in Vermont it is actually shipped there from Canada (yes, all of it) and bottled. Like almost every other renowned new American distillery, WhistlePig is yet to bring its own aged distillate to market. It’s going to be darkly hilarious if/when all these whiskies do hit the market they’re markedly worse than the “sourced” whiskies they sold to keep cash flowing in the interim.
But enough foolish preamble! Let us to the whiskey!
WhistlePig 10, 100% Straight Rye (50%; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: This also smells of rye! (“Fascinating!” ed.) Darker aromas than the Rendezvous and despite the higher rye content there’s less mint and pine and dill here at first. More caramel and toffee with clove and cinnamon. With a little time and air the mint/pine is more pronounced but always in balance with the dark sweetness. With more time I’m getting a hint of coffee/chicory. Even later there’s a note of cold black tea. With a few drops of water there’s some vanilla and brown sugar.
Palate: Lovely velvety mouthfeel. And it’s all very much as advertised by the nose: the classic rye flavours are relatively restrained and in very nice balance with the toffee/caramel/maple syrup part of the spectrum. The mint does expand with time but the cinnamon and clove go with it. Gets sweeter with time, and there’s also a touch more tannic grip. Very drinkable at 50%. Water pushes the mint back a little and pulls out some more wood.
Finish: Medium. Mint and clove mostly. Some cold tea here too later.
Comments: Paradoxically, despite being 100% rye it seems to me to be closer to many high-rye bourbons I’ve had than something like, for example, the Bulleit Rye. Am I crazy? And if I’m not, or not for this reason, does that have to do with the wood or age? Do the stronger, brighter notes of rye get more blunted with age? And if 100% rye whiskey has such a large intersection of flavours with bourbon (whether high rye mashbill or not) does that mean that wood plays a much stronger role in American whiskey than the mash bill? Apologies to whiskey mavens if I’m asking stupid questions–I just don’t know very much in this area.
Thanks again to jsaliga for the sample!
Rating: 86 points.