Our neighbors to the north, unjustly the target of crude jokes involving backwardness, snow and a strange dialect, have another reason for national pride. Whistlepig Straight Rye Whiskey ($70), though distributed by a Vermont label, uses 100% made-in-Canada rye whiskey. Whistlepig departs from the usual American experience of rye as the dominant but not sole component of rye whiskey. If there’s anyone to trust with this variation, it’s Master Distiller Dave Pickerell, a whiskey artiste who made his bones with 14 years at Maker’s Mark. What he’s crafted is a step above Canadian Club.
Rye, not bourbon, is the liquor of choice for Mad Men knocking back Manhattans, but Whistlepig is not a whiskey for mixing. This 100-proof treat is meant to be savored. Aging for 10 years in oak mellows the rye’s pepperiness and also imparts a healthy dose of vanilla reminiscent of bourbon; however, the noticeable absence of corn radically changes Whistlepig’s tasting notes. Pickerell’s efforts have not gone unnoticed, and the whiskey is being heralded as one of the best out there. That should make both Canadians and Americans proud, and a little less sober.