WhistlePig — the distillery that never met a gimmick too outlandish to turn into a shipping product (including finishing whiskey with David Ortiz’s baseball bats) — has another whopper on tap for drinkers. With this third edition in the PiggyBack Legends Series (following the Ortiz bottling and an edition made with country stars the Brothers Osborne), it’s taking whiskey fans to the world of Formula 1 and Alfa Romeo — and a wild, out-there finishing process.
The Limited Edition PiggyBack Legends Series: Alfa Romeo F1® Team Stake Barrel is a high Rye Whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers, with barrels trialed in their wind tunnel to ensure a thrilling taste in every sip.
The third iteration in WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series, the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake Barrel is bottled at 96.77 proof, a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and the precision of racing. Inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver, this Rye Whiskey is finished with lychee and oolong tea. Herbal and floral notes of the oolong tea complement the herbaceous notes of WhistlePig’s signature PiggyBack 100% Rye, rounded out with a juicy tropical fruit finish and a touch of spice.
Like Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake’s signature C43 racing vehicles, trial barrels were tested in the team’s wind tunnel in Switzerland before hitting the track. Select barrels then endured varying levels of G-Forces at the WhistlePig farm and distillery for the finishing touch, accelerating the interaction between the whiskey and the wood, staying true to the physical nature of Formula 1.
Did you catch all that? The short version: It’s rye whiskey, finished with lychee and oolong tea, with barrels subjected to “varying levels of G-Forces” at the distillery to maximize the interaction of wood. (Unlike the Big Papi edition, this is a single barrel release and does not carry a 6 year old age statement.)
Talk about a barn-burner. Immediately reminiscent of last year’s Boss Hog edition, Siren’s Song, it’s the finishing that does the heavy lifting in the glass here. The bold aroma of lychees promptly wafts from the glass, offering that indelible combination of tropical fruit and floral notes, overpowering just about everything else in the mix. Give the whiskey some time and you can pick out notes of vanilla and cherries in syrup, but the lychee quality is frankly overpowering to the point where everything else fades well into the background.
The good news: I love lychees. If you aren’t 100% on board with them, stop reading now and avoid this whiskey like Kentucky Gentleman.
Moving on: The palate leads with lychee but is slightly more nuanced, making room in its very sweet body for some of that oolong tea to emerge, plus notes of orange peel, more vanilla, and a touch of pumpkin spice. Maraska cherry lingers on the back of the tongue, with a finish that evokes Mexican chocolate and pineapple juice — in the best possible way.
Again, whiskey purists are going to hate this stuff. If you classified this as a flavored whiskey instead of a rye, I wouldn’t argue in the slightest. And I think it’s really quite refreshing — and a nice change of pace against a world of rye whiskey carbon copies that are invariably dominated by throat-charring dried-out herbs and burnt grass. It’s just so exuberant it’s hard to put down — but WhistlePig Alfa Romeo is a whiskey I actually enjoy nosing more than drinking. Though that’s plenty of fun, too. Zoom zoom.
A- / $50 / whistlepigwhiskey.com