Latest WhistlePig Boss Hog Finished In Ex-Japanese Fruit Liqueur Barrels - The Whiskey Wash

Latest WhistlePig Boss Hog Finished In Ex-Japanese Fruit Liqueur Barrels

By Nino Marchetti / October 24, 2019

The development of the WhistlePig rye whiskey brand, post the passing of master distiller David Pickerell almost a year ago now, has remained well on track as the team at this Vermont distillery continues to push forth new releases. The annual fall offering from them, the premium Boss Hog series, has made for some interesting cask finishing projects in recent years and now, for 2019, the whiskey has seen finalization in umeshu-seasoned barrels from Japan.

The new WhistlePig The Boss Hog: The Samurai Scientist, according to those behind it, is a 16 year old, single barrel rye whiskey that was finished in barrels seasoned with umeshu, a type of Japanese liqueur made by steeping ume fruits (a type of Japanese apricot that’s also referred to as a plum) in alcohol. The expression is named for a Japanese chemist, Jōkichi Takamine, said to be “the pioneer who introduced koji fermentation to the American whiskey industry in the 19th century.”

WhistlePig The Boss Hog: The Samurai Scientist

WhistlePig The Boss Hog: The Samurai Scientist (image via WhistlePig)

This whiskey is described as being a collaboration between the distillery and “Japanese brewers from Kitaya, an award-winning sake, shōchū and umeshu producer located near Yame City in Fukuoka Prefecture on Japanʼs Kyushu Island. The umeshu used is Saikoo, a uniquely traditional, aged umeshu made by Kitaya. The whiskey was distilled in Canada using koji fermentation and aged for sixteen years before being finished in umeshu seasoned barrels and bottled by hand on the WhistlePig Farm in Shoreham, VT.”

“It was an honor to work alongside the team at Kitaya to bring this collaboration to life in the form of the first American whiskey finished in Japanese umeshu barrels,” said Jeff Kozak, CEO, WhistlePig, in a prepared statement. “With the introduction of The Samurai Scientist, WhistlePig continues to pave the way for innovation across the rye category.

“Dave Pickerell committed to five promises for The Boss Hog, including being distinctly unique from anything we’ve done before. He had a thirst for exploring and trialing techniques from around the world, and Takamine was likeminded in propelling whiskey innovation across continents. This vision continues to drive us to explore beyond the limits of American Whiskey.”

“We finished one of our oldest whiskeys in barrels that held Kitaya’s eleven-year-old umeshu,” added Pete Lynch, Master Blender, WhistlePig. “With umeshu being an intensely aromatic spirit, it does not take long to impart deeply complex flavors. Each barrel of The Samurai Scientist is bottled at proof. Only 90 barrels exist and each bottle notes the barrel number and proof, ranging between 120 – 122.”

Each bottle of this particular Boss Hog “is crowned by a hand-made Danforth pewter stopper representing Takamine’s family heritage and ground-breaking contributions in the field of chemistry. It is presented in a gift box elaborating his story.” Pricing is set at around $500 per 750 ml bottle, and you’ll find some official tasting notes below for your consideration.

On the nose, The Samurai Scientist is intensely aromatic, with cinnamon, maple syrup and toasted marshmallow. Upon tasting, you’ll find bold notes of tobacco, ginger, baking spices and savory umami. After some time in the glass, and with a few drops of water, the whiskey reveals rich and complex notes of rye spice, oak char and vanilla. The finish on The Samurai Scientist is incredibly long, with oak spice, char and just a touch of smoke.