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A few years ago, I was shocked to hear, on a local radio station, the claim that Vermont was producing a ten year old 100% Rye Whiskey! Now being a resident of the People's Republic of Vermont and somebody who tries to keep up with things alcoholic, I truly did a double take. Simple arithmetic told me that in order to have a ten year old rye, the distillation would have had to take place during the first few years of the new century. At that time, there was only one company authorized to distill in the state, Vermont Spirits located in St. Johnsbury, and their products were limited to vodka production - one made from whey (that's right, milk!) and one from maple syrup. These where pretty tasty products (especially the milk vodka) but were eons removed from anything remotely similar to whiskey.
Curious, I examined a bottle at my local liquor store to discover that the bottle of rye in hand was "hand bottled at Whistlepig Farm, Shoreham, Vermont." Nothing else. Sourced whiskey was the likely ingredient, but from where? Lately, Whistlepig has come clean and admitted that they are sourcing their rye from Alberta Distillers in Calgary (why they would want to keep this a secret is a complete mystery, given the quality of the Canadian distillery's products)until they are able to sell their own rye (distillation is planned to start this year, 2015).
It looks like they are serious. They have a beautiful location, a renovated and enlarged dairy farm in Shoreham, VT; they are growing their own rye on adjacent land, and they have the insight of Dave Pickerell of Maker's Mark fame to help guide them along. Here's hoping that they are successful. It would be wonderful to be able to drink a TRULY Vermont Rye Whiskey along with our amazing craft brewed beers (Heady Topper anyone?)
So, here are my tasting notes:
Nose: Dry dusty rye spice along with soft fruit notes, a touch of licorice and vanilla. The nose is somewhat subdued after than initial rye arrival.
Palate: Very firm on delivery, but for a 100 proof rye very smooth. Brown sugar and spices intermingle nicely then fade as vanilla and oak tannins make an appearance.
Finish: Much shorter than you would think. Spice and wood tannins are the predominant elements, but fade quickly.
Overall, a quality rye but one that is on the light side, especially for a 100 proof spirit. Some people have complained about the price ($75 in Vermont) but one must remember what you are purchasing: a 100 proof/100% rye from one of the premier Canadian distilleries. Even if it is a bit light I think the price justified.