Whiskey Review: Wigle Wry Rusky - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Wigle Wry Rusky

As American craft breweries and craft distilleries continue to grow in numbers and popularity, it’s not surprising when the two parallel movements begin to influence one another in interesting ways.

Spoiler alert: Wigle Whiskey’s Wry Rusky is one of those of delicious intersections of beer and spirits, in my humble opinion.

This spirit is among Wigle’s Brewers Series, a line of whiskeys in which the Pittsburgh-based distillery takes inspiration from a particular beer at some nearby brewery in Pennsylvania and crafts a whiskey to emulate their brews.

In the case of Wry Rusky, the inspiration comes from Pittsburgh neighbor Grist House Craft Brewery and their “Black in the USSR,” a Russian Imperial Stout. Wigle gives a concise and informative history of the beer variety on its website, but essentially the distillers aimed to craft a whiskey with a dark, rich, and toasty character.

As Wigle specializes in distillations of local rye, they obtained their rye for Wry Rusky from Chatham University’s Eden Hall Campus – which has its own organic farm, green house and demonstration garden – and combined it with five different malts to bring out the characteristics of a Russian Imperial Stout, according to the online description.

After distillation, Wry Rusky is then aged in new, charred, American oak barrels for a minimum of 18 months to accentuate the “bold, roasty” attributes and bottled at 46 alcohol by volume.

Wigle Wry Rusky

image via Aaron Knapp/The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Notes: Wigle Wry Rusky

Vital stats: Wry Rusky’s mash bill consists of locally-sourced rye (Pittsburgh, Penn.-area) and five different malt varieties to evoke a Russian Imperial Stout Flavor. Aged for at least 18 months in new, charred oak barrels and bottled at 46-percent ABV. Sold in small, 375-milliliter bottles for $34.

Appearance: A bit darker than average, but still within the typical whiskey range of amber.

Nose: The initial sniff hits the nasal passages with a firm but pleasant wave of slightly smoky oak with a sweet undercurrent of vanilla and a touch of lemon and salt, giving it all a tropical island feel. The initial wave is fairly short-lived, however, and turns to an earthier, broodier bouquet of smoky oak with a caramel, peaty character. On top of that is a layer of sweet, roasted hazelnuts with a bit of cinnamon, cloves and just light touches of anise and salted caramel.

Palate: Hits the tongue like a simple syrup that’s been slightly spiced – beguilingly so for me. I took sip after to sip before narrowing it down to spices you might put in mulled wine like cinnamon, cloves, freshly ground black pepper with an undercurrent of what should have been obvious: rye. That initial sweetness gives way for the spicy rye to build up in intensity on the roof of the tongue as slight tingles spread throughout the mouth and even a bit into the nasal passages.

That intensity builds until swallowed, which then unleashes a wave of allspice, rye, toasty peat smoke and a touch of toffee that combine to form an earthy yet almost tangy sensation. The spicy rye tingles the mouth for the next few moments before settling into a dark caramel flavor.

The Takeaway

While there are some scents and flavors I detected in Wry Rusky that I typically avoid in everyday life, Wigle has combined them in a way that even I can enjoy. With this rye, Wigle managed to be both subtle and bold with flavors that can be difficult to control and did so in a way that seemed unique to me. While the rye flavor did run amok at times – although it’s hardly fair to criticize a distillery that specializes in rye for retaining a strong rye flavor – they managed to successfully work other flavors into the mix with delicacy. This is certainly not an everyday drink, but a great one to relax with and contemplate on a slow, cool evening.

User Rating 3.5 (2 votes)