This new bottling is the youngest expression from the Vermont-based brand of Whistlepig. As with the rest of the range Whistlepig Piggyback 6 years old is made from 100% rye. It joins the 10, 12 and 15 year old expressions. The new whisky has been conceived following consultation with bartenders and is designed for use in mixing and cocktails. It was created by Dave Pickerell, the late Master Distiller at Whistlepig who sadly died just before its launch. Piggyback is bottled at six years of age and has been aged in American oak barrels. It was launched in America last month and saw its UK launch on Independence Day (July 4). Whistlepig Piggyback 6 years old is bottled at 48.28% ABV (96.56 Proof) and will retail for £45 per bottle.
Whistlepig was founded in 2008 with the goal of bringing rye whiskies back into the premium North American Whisky sector. A new distillery at Whistlepig Farm in the American state of Vermont began production in 2015. The ultimate goal is to bottle their own spirit for their range of whiskies. To date, spirit has been sourced from an unnamed distillery in Alberta, Canada. These have then been brought over the border to mature at Whistlepig Farm. Since launching, Whistlepig has gone on to become the most decorated rye whisky brand in global whisky awards.
Our tasting notes
The colour is deep golden yellow and the nose is highly fragrant with bold and spicy aromas. There is plenty of vanilla, fresh coconut and maraschino cherry to begin with and these aromas are backed up by pepper-like and earthy spices and a whiff of delicate florals. It smells very promising.
On the palate this whisky continues with its bold nature. Peppery and earthy spices lead the way and are supported by a good amount of fresh oak and dessicated coconut. Then comes some delicious sweetness with golden syrup (or is it maple syrup?), vanilla ice cream and a hint of cola bottle sweets coming through. The maraschino/cocktail cherry note from the nose also develops and adds further depth and complexity. The spiciness and oakiness build and evolve with a lovely late hint of fresh bittersweet rye bread appearing towards the finish. This gives a pleasant grip, dryness and warmth.
The finish is of decent length. The youthful peppery nature drives the whisky on, especially once the sweeter characteristics begin to fade. A lovely earthy rye note also helps with this and provides wamrth and structure. It makes you want another sip.
What's the verdict?
This new offering from Whistlepig is delicious. At the London launch event they went to greta lengths to tell us that this whisky was designed for mixing and cocktails. Indeed, the cocktails we tried on the night worked very well for which they should be complimented. But we also think they may be doing this whisky a disservice - it is superb on its own or over a large cube of ice.
There are not many rye brands, or American whisky brands in general, that carry an age statement across their range and that is also something that Whistlepig should be complimented on. They spoke about the potential to devalue their brand by putting out a 6 year old expression, but they have strengthened it in our view. It is a bold move but one that will make Whistlepig more accessible and able to be tasted by more people.