Review: WhistlePig “Old World” Rye Whiskey 12 Years Old 2015

whistlepig old world

Every year WhistlePig — the acclaimed 100% rye whiskey — puts out a special edition. For the last three of those years the whiskey has been a spin on the original WhistlePig, generally getting older every year and/or bottled from a single barrel. For 2015, WhistlePig has something different in store: A whiskey that’s been finished in a variety of wine barrels.

WhistlePig has been experimenting with a variety of finishing barrels for its rye for a few months; I’ve never tasted any of them but they are still available in very limited release. Old World (aka Old World Marriage) marks the conclusion of those experiments — and unlike the finishing barrel releases it is a permanent addition to the WhistlePig lineup. The finished release is a blend of finished whiskeys: 63% from Madeira finished barrels, 30% Sauternes finished, and 7% Port finished. The whiskies inside are not 100% rye but rather 95% rye and 5% malted barley. (These spirits are also sourced from MGP in Indiana, not from Canada, which is where the prior WhistlePig bottlings are produced.) There’s no information available on the length of the finishing — but the whiskey inside is 12 years old. Of special note: While the individual Old World finished whiskeys were bottled at 90 proof, this one hits the bottle at a slightly lower 86 proof.

The experience is considerably different from the standard WhistlePig bottling. There’s tons of astringency and heat on the nose here — that’s nothing new — but give all that a little time to blow off before diving in. What emerges are distinctly winey aromas coming directly from those barrel finishes. No surprise that the Madeira leads the way, offering those oxidized wine notes plus dark chocolate, salted caramel, and some pungent rhubarb character. On the palate, it’s easily drinkable without water, the whiskey offers a complex array of flavors that starts off with golden syrup and bright citrus (the Sauternes influence, perhaps), then fades toward roasted grains, chocolate (here comes the Port…), and the winey notes that the Madeira drives.

WhistlePig is a textbook rye, all grain, lumber, and baking spices, but this expression takes the spirit in a whole new direction. Definitely worth seeking out, even if you’re just curious from a novelty factor perspective.

A- / $130 / whistlepigwhiskey.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

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5 Responses

  1. liam July 10, 2015 / 9:46 pm

    Err, the bottle says 86 proof…

    How do you like WP compared to Bulleit? Both are distilled elsewhere, but they do different things to each in cask.

  2. Marc August 2, 2015 / 10:29 pm

    You mention this is less overpowering than you’d think given the hefty proof. This is 43%. Am I missing something here or were you being sarcastic???? Or did you think was a much higher proof only to find later it was less?

  3. Christopher Null August 3, 2015 / 8:18 am

    Marc – That’s a vestige of an error that was originally in the piece, as one source I had originally pegged this at ~120 proof like the other WPs. When that was corrected I failed to fix the comment, which, as you note, no longer made any sense at all. I have corrected that second sentence now, thanks, so hopefully this whole review now makes sense.

  4. Christopher Null August 6, 2015 / 10:39 am

    I must have initially mistaken the 63% on the label (indicating the Madeira finished proportion) for the abv. Now that’s pretty stupid!

  5. Kevin January 6, 2016 / 11:27 am

    I have tried many bourbons, ryes and whiskeys. Wow! Tasting this WP bar far most enjoyable experiences I have had in a while. They really have something special here. I am by no means a connoisseur, but I do like to try different high end brands or just sample by recommendation. If I never try another rye or bourbon for that matter, I would be content. Can’t wait to try WP Boss Hog!

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