F+R's Head of Spirits David Walters made his second visit this summer to the WhistlePig Distillery in Vermont to hand select some of their finest single casks for the F+R Custom Cask Program. The distillery is leading the global Rye whiskey revival and after selling out of our first exclusive 15YO cask earlier this year, we couldn’t wait to return to unearth some more rare aged gems from this fascinating estate.
Sales are booming in the US where many believe rye is regaining its rightful place which was lost to prohibition. Pre-prohibition rye whiskey was the most consumed spirit in the US. Even iconic Scotch whisky distilleries (including Bruichladdich) are reversing history and choosing once again to use this difficult grain commercially because of the unique character it displays.
The story and achievements of WhistlePig are remarkable. Founded in 2008 they quickly realised their goal of creating some of the world’s best whiskies. Key to this was hiring former Maker’s Mark Master Distiller, Dave Pickerell. A man considered the Founding Father of craft distilling, this industry legend helped Makers Mark sales grow from 175,000 to 1 million cases over his 14 year tenure. He sadly passed away late last year but has passed down a legacy of knowledge, innovation and experimentation to his protégé Peter Lynch. Their flagship limited edition expression Boss Hog IV: The Black Prince took the title of Best in Show and Best Rye Whiskey at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Their 10 Year Old was awarded 96 points by Wine Enthusiast, and their 15 Year Old (arguably their most in demand expression) garnered 97 points and a Best of Year 2016 award.
What makes these whiskies so special?
On my first visit to the Whistlepig Distillery I remember landing to a snow covered landscape in Burlington, Vermont. The scene was set. I had been told winter temperatures dip to -20°C which immediately set the location apart from many US rye whiskey producers in Kentucky, and indeed those in Scotland. This environment is perfect for growing rye – a tighter, hardy grain that grows really well in colder climates such as Finland Norway, Canada and of course Vermont. My latest visit in June the weather was fortunately more forgiving.
Vermont Oak Casks
The estate includes 20 acres of maple trees, another feature that makes this the perfect place to experiment with the highest quality ingredients for whiskey making. The innovation they are proudest of is their Vermont White Oak barrels from trees harvested directly from the farm and surrounding area. Vermont is about as far north as oak trees can grow and the shorter growing season leads to trees with more growth rings. Each growth ring in a barrel imparts flavour, so Vermont oak barrels – with custom chars & toasts designed by Dave Pickerell – bring tremendous depth and complexity to their ryes.
After some discussion around what we were searching for from a single cask, a selection of barrels were pulled from the racking of the warehouse to sample directly. Prior to our first exclusive F+R single cask release earlier this year, Whistlepig had never released a single cask 15YO expression. Now we have selected ten more single casks all with their own unique flavour profile.
The Selection Process
In total 35 samples were tasted blind and samples eliminated until we had our final ten outstanding but varied whiskeys. The technical sheets came later when we learnt the ten chosen all range from 16 – 18 years old, making them some of oldest Rye’s WhistlePig have and, significantly, some of the oldest on the market. Another revelation was the time spent finishing in Vermont Oak, which ranges from 3 - 30 months, contributing to the kaleidoscope of enticing aromas and flavours present and detailed in each tasting note.
Just 10 casks are available, selected by our Head of Spirits, David Walters, in collaboration with Peter Lynch, the protégé of the late Dave Pickerell.
35 samples drawn from WhistlePig’s signature Vermont Oak Casks –each said to contain whiskey no younger than 15 years old.
Throughout the process the aim was to select what we deemed ‘exceptional’ casks.
Casks which represent the essence of what a single cask should be – ‘one off’ expressions which exude the quality and DNA of WhistlePig’s most celebrated and internationally awarded whiskies but with outstanding individual character.
We now offer you the chance to select one of these ‘exceptional’ casks for your very own private bottling.
What has been achieved at WhistlePig in such short space of time is astounding. Witnessing first-hand the rich natural resources at their disposal, the facilities they have in which to distil, experiment and mature whiskey, and most importantly the opportunity to meet the innovative, world-renowned experts behind the brand, makes their remarkable achievements easier to comprehend. Something I find particularly exciting is watching as the New World whiskey producing countries and regions expand, challenge and in exceptional cases outperform the Old. The opportunity to work with the world’s most awarded rye whiskey maker and bottle some of their oldest liquid is exceptional and something we are looking for to sharing you.
The Cask samples
The Cask List
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 31204
17.5 years old (3 months finished in Vermont Oak barrel). Vanilla, hot cinnamon, brandied cherries, charred oak on the nose. Solid viscosity, very light spice, soft oak and clove. Light persisting oaky finish
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 123612
18 years old (1.5 months finished in Vermont Oak barrel) . Vanilla bean, with tropical fruits and caramel. Spicy oak tannin, baking spices and oak. Lasting, peppery finish
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 312013
17 years old (3 months finished in Vermont Oak barrel) . Cinnamon, white chocolate, and a hint of toasted oak. Tobacco, sweet fruit notes and oak char. Medium length and warming
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 312014
17 years old (3 months finished in Vermont Oak barrel). Floral, with honey and dried bay leaves on the nose. Slight spice, caramel and banana on the palate. Medium dry finish
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 12701
16 years old (2 years finished in Vermont Oak barrel) . Caramel, vanilla, butterscotch on the nose. Rye spice, oily mouthfeel, touch of oak. Long lasting finish
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 12719
16 years old (2 years finished in Vermont Oak barrel) . Brown sugar aromatics arise with time in the glass, mixing with oak and rye spice. Marzipan, leather spice and vanilla. Medium, with good spice and oak presence
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 12723
16 years old (2 years finished in Vermont Oak barrel). Pipe tobacco, ginger, toasted marshmallow. Oak char, grassy rye, and lemon peel. Fruity and long finish, with spice
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 12717
16 years old (2 years finished in Vermont Oak barrel). Char, caramel and lavender mix with vanilla aromatics. Floral, sweet and soft, with spicy rye. Long, sweet, and clean -delicious
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 77020
17 years old (6.5 months finished in Vermont Oak barrel). Spicy, with vanilla and ginger. Rye spice, dark chocolate and leather. Long finish with a good hint of butterscotch
WhistlePig15YO Single Cask ID# 77030
17 years old (6.5 months finished in Vermont Oak barrel). Maplewood, blackberry, new leather, anise on the nose. Black pepper, old leather, melon, and caramel. Strong and lasting finish
Head of Spirits David Walters tasting through the cask samples
Personalise your bottles
- On every bottle is a shoulder label for you to personalise
- It allows space for up to 26 characters or company logo
- You can personalise for yourself, an event, or for company gifting, whatever you choose
- It can be split. For example 4 owners can share a cask and personalise individually receiving 33 bottles each.
- Each label will detail the unique Barrel ID and the bottles are all individually numbered
If you are interested in more information on aquiring a custom cask please contact our Head of Spirits David Walters at firstname.lastname@example.org or speak directly with your account manager.