Taste Test: WhistlePig’s Bourbon Doesn’t Live Up to Its Stellar Ryes

Just because you do one thing really well doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a one-trick pony. For example, just because Vermont distillery WhistlePig sources and blends rye whiskey into excellent age statement expressions, it doesn’t mean it can’t also distill and bottle its own whiskey. Following suit, just because WhistlePig is known for its rye whiskey, it doesn’t mean it can’t release a bourbon. But sometimes it is better to stick to what you know best.

WhistlePig PiggyBack 100 Proof Bourbon is the sister whiskey to the brand’s PiggyBack 100% Rye, which the late Dave Pickerell created to offer a younger and more affordable version of the core lineup to drink neat or use in cocktails. PiggyBack Bourbon arrived last summer, but the whiskey is just getting its national rollout. The liquid inside this bottle is apparently a combination of sourced and in-house distilled whiskey, as the states listed on the label are Indiana and Vermont. The former is pretty likely MGP, but when I asked a rep for the brand about it I was told the bourbon is distilled in Vermont and “with other partners in order to bring unique character to the whiskey.” So… MGP it is?

The mashbill is listed as being “high corn” with some rye in there as well, and the whiskey is aged for six years in char #3 barrels and bottled at 100 proof. All solid, recognizable bourbon details. But here’s the thing—this whiskey is fine, but it’s just nowhere near as good as any of the rye whiskeys released by WhistlePig, and that includes the PiggyBack 100% Rye. And don’t even get me started on the Boss Hog series, some of which have really blown me away.

It’s not that this bourbon is bad, however, it’s just sort of unremarkable. And maybe that’s okay, as it seems to be aimed towards use in a cocktail instead of sipping. The nose is a bit hot at 100 proof, with some maple and vanilla notes floating around as well. That maple continues onto the palate, but there’s some grainy and earthy notes mingling with burnt orange peel and banana pudding. The result is a bit muddy, without the pointed precision that the distillery’s rye whiskeys bring to the drinking experience.

If WhistlePig decided to add a bourbon to the lineup that matched the core expressions’ aging standards and was entirely sourced, I wonder how that would taste. I also wonder how the distillery’s own in-house distilled bourbon will taste after ten years. These are fun thought experiments for whiskey nerds, but also does it really matter? Michael Jordan came back to basketball after trying his hand at baseball, and look how that turned out. So with a range of top-notch rye whiskeys in your portfolio, maybe it’s okay to be a one-trick pony that’s really more of a thoroughbred when it comes to this particular category.

Score: 81

  • 100: Worth trading your first born for
  • 95 – 99 In the Pantheon: A trophy for the cabinet
  • 90 – 94 Great: An excited nod from friends when you pour them a dram 
  • 85 – 89 Very Good: Delicious enough to buy, but not quite special enough to chase on the secondary market
  • 80 – 84 Good: More of your everyday drinker, solid and reliable
  • Below 80 It’s alright: Honestly, we probably won’t waste your time and ours with this

Every week Jonah Flicker tastes the most buzzworthy and interesting whiskeys in the world. Check back each Friday for his latest review.

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