WHISTLEPIG 10 YEAR SINGLE BARREL RYE
Barrel #20201 selected by K&L (2020)
MASH BILL – 100% rye
PROOF – 112.5
AGE – 17 years 8 months
DISTILLERY – WhistlePig (sourcing from Canada)
PRICE – $98
WORTH BUYING? – It was a gamble that worked out very well, so, yes for sure.
I’m a longtime fan of the WhistlePig 10 Year release, especially the single barrel store picks bottled at cask strength. Back in 2017 I bunkered four SiBs picked by K&L and still have two remaining. They’re so good. So when K&L snagged another handful barrels that, despite the bottle’s label, are actually near to 18 years old, I jumped on it. (In fact, as I’m writing this, K&L has just released—and quickly sold out—yet another handful of these 17+ year “10 year” barrels.)
This time I only went for one. I’m trying to cut down on bunkering. But also, I’d had a sad experience with a 15 Year single barrel store pick this past summer. It featured a rubbery note that I just couldn’t get past. It’s a note I’ve tasted in other teenaged Canadian ryes as well. Turns out rye grain contains the creosote molecule, also found in tar and rubber. I rarely get it in rye whiskeys. Only ever in teenaged ryes, and even then, only Canadian or Canadian sourced.
So it was with some anticipation of a repeat of the creosote note that I uncorked this bottle. To my utter delight, not only was the creosote note absent, the overall taste profile was unlike any other WhistlePig I’d ever had. Lovely, rich, decadent brandy and syrupy raisin notes dominated the experience, followed by a bit of cherry, caramel, that characteristic WhistlePig dill, and rye spices. In addition to being relieved by the lack of creosote, I was blown away by this unexpected array of flavors.
That uncorking pour was a week ago, so the bottle has now aired out just a bit. Here are some brief notes, taken three pours into the bottle, in both a traditional and a Canadian Glencairn.
COLOR – vibrant, brassy, copper, orange
NOSE – rich brandied raisins, rye florals and grasses, finely ground black pepper, burnt cinnamons, caramel drizzled on a well toasted pastry bread, dry oak.
TASTE – rye spice and black pepper, caramel, coffee, orange peel, faint dill, oak
FINISH – everything in the taste gradually fading, leaving a lingering tingly warmth, with the coffee and rye spice notes last to fade…
OVERALL – both decadent and dry, savory and sweet, with a fine antique quality to it all
The gooey, rich, decadent quality has faded a notch since uncorking. But it remains a fine antique of a rye. The taste really does conjure images of ornate metal and woodwork from the early 20th or late 19th century. Objects that retain their old fashioned details and beauty, but have dried out or rusted just a bit and not been refurbished.
When I missed the recent second wave of K&L 17+ year barrels, I felt a pang of disappointment—despite my 2021 commitment to bunkering fewer repeats! Tasting this now, however, I feel at peace with not having a back up. It’s really good, don’t get me wrong. I’m so glad to have this bottle. But the extent to which it has dried out a bit after being uncorked one week hints that, all said and done, it may end up an exceptional journey yet without perfect weather from start to finish.
What I have loved about previous WhistlePig 10 Year SiBs, bottled at cask strength as well but closer to the label’s 10 year mark, is that they have been dependably rich and sweet, grounded by maturity, and very balanced. This 17 year 8 month barrel, which, as K&L reported, somehow got forgotten in the warehouse, does taste a bit forgotten—like the antique objects it conjures up in my imagination. Dusty relics, still beautiful but worn from neglect and a little wobbly.
As always with a striking but odd whiskey, I will be curious to follow it on its journey from uncorking to final pour. Will this bottle continue to dry out further? Or will waves of sweetness come in and out with time?
Perhaps I’ll report back on the bottle kill pour.
In the meantime, if you’re either a WhistlePig fan or love teenaged ryes, I do recommend picking up one of these well-aged SiBs should a store near you procure one. It’s a quite different beast than the official 15 year WhistlePig SiB releases, and half the price at least!