We’re seven years into WhistlePig’s “Boss Hog” releases, and they keep getting stranger. If you thought Boss Hog 6 — distilled using sake-like fermentation techniques and finished in umeshu wine barrels — was something different, get a load of this: The Boss Hog VII: Magellan’s Atlantic is aged for 17 years in American oak, finished in Spanish oak, then finished a second time in South American teakwood casks, a wood which apparently is good for more than patio furniture. As usual, these are single barrel releases which will vary a bit from bottle to bottle.
Ready to dive into the story?
Inspired by the first recorded circumnavigation of the earth, The Boss Hog VII: Magellan’s Atlantic captures the historic voyage of an intrepid crew who embarked from Spain in 1519 and made landfall in present-day Brazil before navigating the perilous strait that would come to bear their captain’s name. Like Magellan’s daring endeavor, the path for finishing this precious, aged whiskey was anything but certain.
WhistlePig’s Spanish oak casks originate in the mountainous forests of Northern Spain (Cantabria). Unlike American white oak, this Spanish oak is high in tannins, knotty and porous. It is incredibly challenging to make staves from and the final casks are prone to leakage and excess evaporation. While difficult to source and dangerous to use, the wood delivers intense flavors, with heightened interaction between spirit and oak, creating unparalleled complexity in the whiskey.
While previous editions of The Boss Hog were finished in one outstanding cask, WhistlePig’s young and imaginative whiskey team sensed there was another step in the journey to fully unlock the potential of The Boss Hog VII. For its final finish, South American Teakwood casks are sustainably sourced from Brazil. The new Teakwood adds rich notes of baking spices and a sweet, toasted character, complementing the intense spiciness of the Spanish oak.
“We have experimented South American Teakwood on just a handful of barrels in the past, and both this and the New Spanish Oak are uncommon in the whiskey world,” says Meghan Ireland, Maturation Chemist, WhistlePig. “It’s been the least predictable and most intensive edition of The Boss Hog to date, but well worth the trials and effort.”
“The Spanish oak casks deliver a unique and unparalleled flavor and South American Teakwood was among the most coveted Bespoke Barrels in our exclusive Single Barrel program. We anticipated that the combination would make for an unprecedented taste and we couldn’t be happier with the result,” says Jeff Kozak, CEO, WhistlePig.
“Our 17-year-old straight rye whiskey spends three weeks resting in Spanish oak before finishing in South American Teakwood for just three days. The whiskey world has never before seen this truly one of a kind combination of casks, nor has it tasted anything quite like the resulting product and liquid it has produced,” says Pete Lynch, Master Blender, WhistlePig. “A one-hour proprietary toast with the Spanish oak creates a small char layer that removes some tannins but preserves the good ones.”
OK, let’s give it a try.
I will be utterly frank in saying this is unlike any rye I’ve ever encountered — and unlike any other whiskey, for that matter. Stick your nose in the glass and it doesn’t come across like whiskey, but rather like Christmas, full of cinnamon, allspice, rum-soaked raisins, maple syrup, and buttery pastry. There’s wood in there, but it doesn’t come across like oak. Rather, it has something closer to the perfumed note of sandalwood, though it’s incredibly overpowered by spice elements.
The palate is again highly — highly — unusual. Sweet and full of fruit, it’s loaded with cherry notes that are spiced with those same holiday elements, here taking on even more of a festive character. The notes of berries and the increasing intensity of the spices — all filtered through a rich and seductive body that oozes with melted butter and syrup dripping from Sunday pancakes — never lets up, to the point where one begins to wonder if this is actually a flavored whiskey of some kind. Not in the Fireball sense — there’s a level of refinement here that is unmistakable — but in some upscale version of the concept. The finish is laden with spice but otherwise quite clean, and the whiskey drinks beautifully without any added water.
What then to do with Boss Hog 7? It’s a fun dram on its own, but if your sensibilities will allow it, give it a whirl in an upscale, holiday-themed Manhattan, or use it in a wild spin on a Brandy Alexander. Add plenty of Maraska cherries, for sure.
No matter what, though: This is the craziest whiskey I’ve had all year.
105.1 proof as reviewed. (Proof will vary up to 107.8 proof.) Reviewed: Barrel #15.