When people ask us what our favorite Canadian Whisky is, we often point to Whistle Pig. It’s actually a little bit of a misnomer, though, because while the spirit for Whistle Pig comes from Canada, it’s actually not a Canadian Whiskey because it’s proofed and finished in bourbon barrels and bottled in Vermont. The practice of buying spirits from one location and bottling it somewhere else is a fairly common practice. It can result in good whiskey, like Bulleit Rye which comes from LDI/MGP Ingredients, or Pendleton 1910 which also comes from Canada and is bottled in Oregon. Sometimes it can result in whiskey that is completely underwhelming, like the recent George Dickel Rye which also comes from MGP. One of the most important elements in this equation is that the brands are forthcoming about where their products come from and who actually makes it (especially after the whole scandal around Templeton Whiskey).
When you source your spirit from a third party, the tools in your toolkit are limited. Perhaps the easiest way to create a new release is to put your product out at a slightly different proof or a slightly different age. This is what Whistle Pig has done for their limited edition “Triple One” release.
Whistle Pig Limited Edition Triple One Rye (111 proof / 55.5% ABV, $111 per bottle) takes Whistle Pig’s standard rye release (which is 10 years old and 100 proof) and adds a year to the age and 11 proof (5% ABV) to the mix and then nearly doubles the price. While we can understand the symmetry of 11 year, 111 proof and $111 (aka triple one), it’s sheer insanity for Whistle Pig to charge this much for such a small upgrade to their standard release (which is often sold for $60 a bottle). Also, when it comes to rye whiskey, older isn’t always better – a lot of rye hits its sweet spot at the 6-9 year mark.
Dark gold in color, Whistle Pig Triple One has a slightly oakier nose than the standard release, and the rye grain is still clearly there along with cinnamon and caramel. The rye grain leads the entry, which is spicy from the get-go. The added proof only serves to boost both the oak and rye spice and throw things a little out of balance. Underneath the rye is a nice lush caramel and vanilla, but between the enhanced rye spice and the increase in oak, they are much more of a suggestion than anything else. The rye does manage to maintain a nice floral quality, but again the spice notes dominate it. The finish is long and strong, oak driven with the subtle caramel underneath. The oak in the finish is overly assertive and borders on unpleasant.
Whistle Pig Limited Edition Triple One is about as ill conceived a release as we’ve seen in the whiskey space. Not only is the whiskey not worth almost double the price of their standard product, it’s not any better than the standard Whistle Pig – if anything the extra year has made it worse. Rye whiskey is an explosively hot market with great interest for super premium releases, so we’ll give credit to Whistle Pig for being savvy and capitalizing on this trend from the start, but the Whistle Pig Triple One release is simply cashing in. P.T. Barnum was famous for saying “something for everyone” and that’s what we’re seeing in the whiskey space, but he also famously said, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” and Whistle Pig is counting on that for their 1100 cases of this limited release.