Thursday, February 20, 2014

WhistlePig Boss Hog: Have You Seen the Little Piggies?


A lot of times when I write about craft whiskeys, I really like the people who make the whiskey, but I don't like the whiskey itself.  With WhistlePig, a non-craft whiskey dressed up in craft clothing, it's the opposite. I like the whiskey, but the guy who sells the stuff is a real piece of work. The owner of the brand is Raj Bhakta, a reality TV star and failed politician who was mentored by Donald Trump, which explains a lot. Bhakta recently gave an embarrassing interview to Bloomberg News in which he came out with gems like, "If you look at American whiskeys, traditionally speaking, you don't see an age statement on the bottle."  Er, what?  And in the whole interview, he talks a lot about American whiskey but never mentions that his whiskey is made in Canada.

All of that being said, I very much liked the first iteration of WhistlePig, though that likely has very little to do with Mr. Bhakta and everything to do with WhistlePig "Master Distiller" Dave Pickerell, formerly of Maker's Mark, who is the brains behind many successful whiskey start-ups.

WhistlePig's latest release is the Boss Hog, a 12 year old cask strength, single barrel rye that is finished in bourbon barrels and sells for an eye popping price. As with all of the WhistlePig whiskeys, it's 100% rye, which indicates it is likely of Canadian provenance, though the bottle has no statement of origin.  The bottle lists a series as well as a barrel; keep in mind that as with all single barrel offerings, the different barrels may vary.


WhistlePig Boss Hog, 12 years old, Spice Dancer series, Barrel 3, 67.3% abv ($160)

The nose has a whiff of that pickle juice that's typical in these Canadian ryes but with a bit of  vanilla as well. The palate has a nice balance of sweet and spicy rye notes, caramel and plenty of brine but the brine overwhelms by late palate.  A drop of water brings out the vanilla notes and really enhances it, smoothing out some of the rough edges.  The finish is briny and slightly bitter.

This is very similar to the standard WhistlePig.  It's exactly what you would expect from a cask strength version.  I actually prefer the standard 10 year old which has more balance.  The brine in this one tends to take over.

While this is a good rye, it's hard to recommend at this price point.  I don't see many advantages of this over the regular ten year old, which is half the price.  Then again, if you really want a 10 to 15 year old cask strength rye, there aren't a lot of other options.


13 comments:

Shane said...

I couldn't have said that first paragraph's sentiment any better. Cheers!

tanstaafl2 said...

Perhaps these are sufficiently different from barrel to barrel to make a big difference or maybe it is just different palates but I found the Boss Hog I tried to be largely devoid of any significant brine notes or bitterness (barrel 10 at 134.2pf, what ever that means given it comes from WhistlePig!) It was much better than the orignal WP 10 or the Jeff 10, which we tried SBS, including lowering the proof on the Boss Hog a bit (although not down to the 100 proof range). The only thing that seemed almost as good, if in a different way, was a little oddity I have called Millstone 100 rye from Zuidam in the netherlands (not available in the US to my knowledge).

Rich Thomas said...

I agree -- it's a nice sipper, but very, very hard on the wallet. Even in a bar, it would likely go for $15 to $25 per snifter.

As a rule, whiskeys this expensive are for a very niche-oriented, very diehard crowd, though, so if what you want is an oldish, cask strength, 100% rye...

Alex said...

Wow, although I don't watch much of either, I used to prefer Bloomberg to CNBC, but I've never wanted to slap some talking heads as much as the hosts/interviewers in that clip.

It's an unfortunate result of whiskey's popularity, where people who think they know something are more interested in bragging about their knowledge to prove they are among the cognescenti than they are in being accurate or educating the public.

Anonymous said...

Sounds awful.

Anonymous said...

Tanstaafl2 - I also (very fortunately it sounds like) have Barrel 10, and it is fantastic. No pickle or brine, just spice packed cask strength rye. I didn't like the price ($129) too much but figured this may be the only chance to have a bottle of 12 year + barrel proof 100% rye juice so I went for it. Glad to have it, too bad it sounds like there's some stinker barrels out there, too.

Anonymous said...

There are so may great whiskeys out there that are made by great people, Why would anybody give money to such a phony operation as Whistle Pig and their oily proprietor? Just say "no".

Anonymous said...

With all the choices out there...why overpay? Seems like more marketing strategy than any sense of craft.

Thanks for the behind-the-scenes scoop.

Justin said...

Wow! I thought the regular whistle pig was a tad overpriced especially when compared to Jeffersons and Mastersons. (Both of whom are alleged to come from the same Canadian distillery). $160 for a 12 year rye? Talk about an "F" on the ol' value meter.

Thanks for the heads up about the real owner of whistle pig. I never knew who owned it before. I will look into this. If he really is a douche, that will be all the more reason to ignore the pig.

VT Mike said...

I live in Vermont and work in the restaurant industry. It baffles me how many people (both tourists and locals) want to buy Whistle Pig thinking that it's a product that's made in Vermont.

TylerP said...

I am a big fan of Whistle Pig. I own a bottle of the Whistle Pig 10, had a dram of the WhistlePig 11, and need to get onto the Boss Hog. The two I had a really good Rye. Really Good. The 11 is not worth the price jump for me- but the WhistlePig is one that is and will remain on my shelf.

Keith W said...

Having encountered Raj a couple times at tastings, and knowing the lying behind the marketing (not that THAT is anything unique to Whistle Pig), AND the price they ask -- I can't think of a reason I would ever buy it as opposed to dozens of other, better, more honest whiskies with much less offensive spokespeople.

Anonymous said...

Just say "no" to supporting dirtballs with your hard-earned, even inherited $$$. Here's your chance.