Vermont-based WhistlePig is one of the most exciting rye whiskey producers. Since it officially opened in 2015, the zero-generation farm has led the rye revival and pioneered the conversation about terroir in spirits.
Entrepreneur Raj Bhakta purchased the 500-acre renovated dairy farm in Shoreham, Vermont in 2007. He then teamed up with industry legend and founding father of the US craft whiskey movement Dave Pickerell and started bottling rye in 2015. Pickerell had previously worked as Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark for 14 years, increasing sales from 175,000 to 1 million cases.
The company has been very transparent about the fact it sources Canadian whiskey and is making strides into becoming the first farm-to-bottle rye whiskey with its FarmStock series.
As part of its Triple Terroir programme, WhistlePig produces whiskey distilled from their own grain, proofed with water from the surrounding area and matured in custom Vermont white oak.
There have been a number of personnel changes at the distillery. In 2017, WhistlePig parted ways with its founder Raj Bhakta and a number of high-profile lawsuits followed. Jeff Kozak stepped in as CEO and Moët Hennessy became a minority stakeholder in December 2020. Pickerell’s protégé, Master Blender Pete Lynch, took over following his mentor’s passing in 2018 but left two short years later in 2020. Today, Emily Harrison is Lead Distiller snd Meghan Ireland is Master Blender.
Ireland leads the cask finishing programme and has been responsible for some exciting launches, including a number of limited releases in partnership with FINE+RARE.
According to founder Raj Bhakta, the name WhistlePig derives from a bizarre interaction he had with a stranger while hiking in Colorado. A man with a strong French accent approached Bhakta and exclaimed: “Could it be? A Whistlepig?” When he was met with a bemused look, the man repeated himself and scurried away.