Whiskey Review: WhistlePig x Traeger Wood Fired SmokeStock Rye Whiskey

, | November 19, 2022

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 partnered with the wood pellet grill company Traeger Grills to release a series of whiskey and BBQ-related products including the WhistlePig x Traeger Wood Fired SmokeStock Rye Whiskey. WhistlePig was founded by Raj Peter Bhakta who, in 2007, purchased an old dairy farm in Shoreham, Vermont, and began the process of converting it to a rye whiskey distillery. Wanting to hit the ground running, Bhakta partnered with the legendary David Pickerell, of Marker’s Mark fame.

Pickerell had discovered an incredible Canadian rye whiskey. He knew it was head and shoulders above the typical American’s understanding of Canadian rye; what he needed was the right marketing partner to sell this gem for what it was truly worth. Together, Bhakta and Pickerell released WhistlePig’s 10 Year Rye to the world in 2010, wowing reviewers and the public. Since 2015, WhistlePig has been distilling its own rye in house and aging in wood harvested from the over 450-acre farm. So far, only select releases are completely from Vermont. The company, despite the loss of Pickerell and the contentious departure of Bhakta, still sources rye from Canada for most of its releases.

To capture Traeger’s essence, the barrels and the proofing water were smoked using Traeger’s apple wood pellets, the later presumably made like diluted liquid smoke. This whiskey promises to bring the roasty-toasty aromatics to your next grill session. The six-year-old whiskey includes some of the farm-grown rye (according to Traeger’s website, though the bottle is labeled product of Canada), which is wonderful to see in increasing frequency in the farm’s releases.

WhistlePig SmokeStock Rye review

WhistlePig x Traeger Wood Fired SmokeStock Rye (image via Suzanne Bayard/The Whiskey Wash)

Tasting Notes: WhistlePig x Traeger Wood Fired SmokeStock Rye Whiskey

Vital Stats: Aged in new char level 3 American white oak barrels, 43% ABV, mash bill: undisclosed, SRP $73/ 750ml bottle.

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Appearance: This whiskey is a delicate pale yellow with a golden undertone.

Nose: Initially this whiskey leaves no question about its smoky heritage, opening up with notes of cold charcoal, charred corn, and campfire smoke. It has some unpleasant chemical aromas like diesel smoke, body sweat, and lighter fluid. It’s almost faintly oxidized. With air, most of the chemical notes blow off, but there’s no hiding the fact that this heavily impacted by the smoke.

Palate: Though light in color, this is no slouch in the body department as this is almost sticky in the mouth, it is so rich and viscous. At first, the flavor seems to linger in the background offering up a faintly sweet note of corn syrup and light caramel. This sweet note melts into liquid smoke with overt notes of charred pizza crust and burnt chocolate. The finish offers notes of ash and charcoal briquettes. The rye sits in the background, sour and sullen like an ignored little kid. I gave this a second chance a few days later, and the smoke seemed to have resolved with air, letting the sweet rye spice come out and play. The finish is still all liquid smoke.

Whiskey Review: WhistlePig SmokeStock Rye Whiskey
2.5

Summary

I initially tasted this blind in a lineup of other ryes, and let’s just say there was no mistaking what this was. Don’t get me wrong, I love smoky liquids and consume unreasonable amounts of Lapsang Souchong, a Chinese black tea heavily influenced by pine wood smoke. This whiskey is overwhelmingly smoky to the point where I had to take a break before tasting other whiskies. On its own, indoors and far from the grill, this tastes more like an ingredient than a complement to a meal.

It felt like a waste of a good WhistlePig…. at first. It really needed time (aka oxygen) for the flavors to meld and integrate. When they did, it worked better, but I’m still not convinced. I can imagine this being pleasant next to a recently kindled fire or grill, where the air is heavy with smoke and you’re waiting for the lighter fluid to burn off.

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Suzanne Bayard

Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...