Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by WhistlePig. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
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 has announced a series of releases of their six year aged flagship Piggyback Rye “celebrating living legends who give 100% in the name of greatness.” The first in the series is a single barrel release in partnership with newly minted Hall of Famer David Ortiz, known to Red Sox fans as Big Papi. Given that these releases are in partnership with Barstool Sports, it seems fair to assume that forthcoming releases in the series will also involve accomplished athletes.
Rye makes up 100% of Piggyback’s mash bill and the liquid is aged six years in American Oak, but the Big Papi series is finished with the addition of toasted DO34 maplewood bats. Few endorsement bottles include celebrity involvement that actually contributes to the flavor of the product, so putting Ortiz’ signature bat to use in production is a fun gimmick. WhistlePig blender Meghan Ireland is on the record claiming that “I’ll put anything in a barrel once,” and the release of these bottles would imply that the experiment proved worth repeating…
Tasting Notes: WhistlePig PiggyBack Big Papi
Vital Stats: 100% Rye mashbill. Aged 6 years. 48.28% ABV. Retails around $55
Appearance: Noticeably clean, clear golden color with medium weight.
Nose: Sweet, burnt sugar with citrus and spice, clove or cinnamon.
Palate: There’s a bit of burn, but don’t be fooled into thinking this is a “hot” pour. It drinks smooth, but tongue-tingly spicy. On my initial sips nearly all I was getting on the palate was intense, nondescript spicy tingle. I added a couple drops (and I mean literally two tiny drops of water) and the glass really opened up. Spice is still the star of the show, but it’s a discernible sweet cinnamon spice (think cinnamon gum from the checkout line at a co-op grocery store) that pops into black pepper.
As the tingle fades, it leaves behind a relaxed caramel sweetness that prepares the palate for the next sip’s incoming spice.
If you’re drinking this neat, I highly recommend opening it up with a very small addition of water. The intensity of the main flavor has me thinking that this is a good candidate for pairing with the right meal. As of this writing, field research is ongoing. Like I said before, the creative use of baseball bats puts a more interesting stamp on the whiskey than most celebrity endorsed bottles, and given that proceeds from the collaboration benefitting Ortiz’ charitable foundation, I think there’s plenty here to enjoy as a baseball fan or a whiskey enthusiast.
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Jacob Wirt’s past lives as a cook and cultural studies researcher continue to inform his appreciation of fermented grain beverages- not (only) because these professions might drive one to drink, but because they offer a reminder of the knowledge, work, and history that makes every glass possible. His first love...