Editor’s Note: These products were provided to us as review samples by WhistlePig. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
WhistlePig is well known to rye drinkers and craft distilling enthusiasts. From their earliest years putting sourced Canadian rye to good use with guidance from craft distilling legend Dave Pickerell, to today’s estate-driven production of heralded ryes helmed by Head Whiskey Developer Liz Rhoades and Whiskey Blender Meghan Ireland, WhistlePig has been a category standout for more than a decade.
This year, WhistlePig is getting in on the canned cocktail trend with a line of PiggyBack canned cocktails, and lending their rye (or at least its reputation) to the effort. A prepared statement from CEO Jeff Kozak declares that “We thrive on testing out new, innovative, and dynamic ways to use our Rye. We crafted this drink with 100% Estate Rye directly from the WhistlePig Farm, and paired it with ingredients barrel-aged in our WhistlePig Rye barrels – staying true to our whiskey ways.”
There is a certain degree of confusion about the nature of these beverages; are they cocktails? Or are they hard seltzers? This is food for thought for industry spectators such as myself, but I don’t want to get too bogged down in the semantics of these drinks, I’ll turn my attention to how they taste.
Tasting Notes: Session Citrus Mint
The biggest impression here is a sort of nondescript, fruity sweetness with a hint of tart citrus. The herbaceous, minty taste isn’t immediately noticeable, but shows up as the drink hangs around in the palate. Out of the three, this one has the least assertive rye flavor. It doesn’t seem to be contributing too much, or is maybe drowned out by the citrus. There isn’t too much to say here. Fans of boozy lemonade will probably be pleased, especially if they enjoy carbonated beverages. It’s drinkable, but not something I’d go out of my way to drink.
Tasting Notes: Fresh Ginger Lime
The mild spicy tingle of the rye and ginger combine with the carbonation and produce a tingle on the palate right off the bat. As suggested by the ginger and lime, the flavors here are pretty similar to a Moscow Mule. The rye does add some extra spice, or even a “funk,” as well as an omnipresent vanilla-type flavor that I could honestly have done without. I’m not going to claim any expertise in product development–I’m not even that proficient as an at-home mixologist–but I’ve tried several beverages in this sort of “whiskey-mule” genre as the canned cocktail trend picks up momentum and at this point I just don’t think that humanity has developed the technology to make this work.
Tasting Notes: Blackberry Lemon Fizz
Out of the three cans I tried, the cocktail template represented here was the least clear. Not being the trusting sort, a lack of clear expectation led me to taste with a bit of skepticism and this might have actually improved my experience here, as I found more to like than I was anticipating. Given that two-thirds of the beverage’s name are fruits, it shouldn’t be surprising that big fruits are the strongest flavors here, but there are some richer spice notes lurking in the background. The overall impression on the palate is pretty “noisy,” but the round, earthy sweetness of real blackberries is in there somewhere. The presence of the rye flavors somehow makes more sense here than in either of the other two, and I could say it tastes kind of like a cobbler with a straight face.
I’m not at all convinced that this is the best use to which WhistlePig could put their estate grown rye, but all in all, these are reasonable enough options if you’re reaching for sweetened booze in a can. They’re stronger than most beers, but don’t drink hot at all. Whether that’s a pro or a con is on you. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I’m pretty surprised with myself for preferring the sweetest of the three, but life’s full of surprises.