The journey from field to glass is a narrative manifested in each and every bottle of whiskey made, and nowhere is this more evident than in the growing category of rye whiskey.
From the rye-based vodka coming through The Oxford Artisan Distillery (known as TOAD) through to the all-rye operation at Finland’s Kyrö, distillers across the world are celebrating this most flavoursome of cereal.
America is the real home of rye-based whiskey. Rye has been a staple in farming for hundreds of years, and it has also been used in whiskey production as part of a mixed ‘mash bill’, the balance of grains that a distillery uses to create flavour in their spirit.
The backbone of most American whiskey is corn, which carries a sweet note. In fact, American bourbon whiskey must legally contain at least 51% corn, and when combined with a small amount of malted barley, and wheat (for a fruity note), the foundation of any good bourbon is in place. To elevate bourbon away from just a basic balance to something really exceptional, a portion of rye is used.
Rye brings with it a full, bold and slightly spicy flavour. It also adds an oiliness and overall rich mouthfeel. And such is the importance of rye that the spotlight on whiskey with a high rye content has been getting increasingly brighter, and the leading exponent of this fine art is Vermont’s WhistlePig, the world’s most awarded rye whiskey producer.
WhistlePig was founded in 2008 by entrepreneur Raj Bhakta, whose passion and ambition to create some of the world’s finest whiskeys began when he hired industry legend Dave Pickerell, master distiller at Maker’s Mark.
Pickerell died in 2018 (tragically young at 62), but the foundations he installed at WhistlePig, and the legacy that is being continued by his protégé Peter Lynch, has ensured that it is not just their expectational stocks of whiskey that are maturing well, but the whole of their farm-based operation.
And this is evident in a relationship that started in 2018 when London merchant Fine+Rare selected and retailed the world’s first single cask of WhistlePig, a 15-year-old which was available to purchase in 2019.
The partnership has now been renewed and expanded, this time offering just ten individual casks, selected by F+R’s head of spirits David Walters in collaboration with WhistlePig’s Lynch.
The raison d’etre for the cask selection was, according to F+R, “to find ‘one-off’ exceptional expressions which exude the quality and DNA of WhistlePig’s most celebrated and internationally-awarded whiskies, but with outstanding individual character”.
The rye whiskey from these individual casks, from 16 to 18 years of age, has been additionally aged in barrels made from Vermont oak. Due to the northerly location of Vermont, the relatively short growing seasons lead to oak trees with a greater concentration of growth rings, which help to impart flavour into the maturing whiskey.
These Vermont oak casks have been designed with custom char and toast-levels designed by Pickerell, bringing real depth and complexities to the whiskies.
Each unique cask costs £31,998.00 In Bond, yielding 132 x 75cl bottles which will be personalised, individually numbered and housed in a presentation box. For more information on this offer, visit the Fine+Rare website.