If you follow our content at all, you’ll know we love a good rye whiskey. Often times that has us drinking MGP rye because, well, they make so much of the rye out there, and we like it. It’s always nice, then, when we find a new rye whiskey that isn’t sourced from MGP. That’s precisely what we have here in WhistlePig Piggyback Rye. Now it’s just time to see if we like it.
In this review, we’ll cover the history, distillation, taste, price and more of WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye. Our goal… to answer these questions: is WhistlePig PiggyBack good? What does it taste like? How much does it cost? Is it worth buying? Let’s get to it. .
WhistlePig was founded in 2007 by Raj Peter Bhakta when he purchased a farm with an old barn on it in Vermont. Bhakta’s initial goal was to create the best rye whiskey, so he started out by purchasing a large stock of 10 year old Canadian whiskey that was being used in blends. It’s that initial stock of whiskey that Bhakta used to get WhistlePig up and running. WhistePig, while based out of Vermont, produces primarily Canadian whiskey. They do age their whiskey in Vermont Oak barrels, though.
WhistlePig opened their own on-site distillery in 2015 and began producing their own whiskey. While PiggyBack and many of their other expressions still source whiskey from Canada, their Farmstock selections use a blend that includes their own distillate.
WhistlePig PiggyBack History
Dave Pickerell became master distiller and blender of WhistlePig back in 2009 and remained in the position until his passing in 2018. Before his death, he had shared his idea of creating a premium, aged rye whiskey for use in cocktails. WhistlePig released the 6 year, 100% rye PiggyBack expression in 2019 to fulfill Dave Pickerell’s idea for a premium mixing rye whiskey.
Since then, WhistlePig has released a few other expressions of PiggyBack in collaboration with country music duo Brothers Osborne, and two Barstool Sports Podcasts. They have a single barrel bourbon in collaboration with Bussin’ With The Boys and KFC Radio – the two Barstool entities. You can read more about Barstool and their work with other members of the spirits industry in our article on Pink Whitney.
WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye Overview
- Spirit: Rye Whiskey
- Distillery: Alberta Distillers
- Produced By: WhistlePig
- ABV: 48.28%, or 96.56 Proof
- Aged: 6 Years
- Mashbill: 100% Rye
- Price: $50
Let’s start with the basics. This is a 6 year, 100% rye whiskey distilled in Canada. Much of rye whiskey today has a 95% rye mashbill with 5% malted barley because that is MGP’s standard rye mash, and they produce majority of American rye whiskey. WhistlePig uses a 100% rye mash, so we are going to expect the spice to shine.
PiggyBack also comes in just below the 100 proof mark, which is perfect. If the idea is to serve it in a cocktail, it should be strong enough to shine through from a proof and flavor perspective.
Lastly, we have the price. WhistlePig PiggyBack is $50, give or take a few bucks depending on your location and choice of liquor store. $50 is certainly towards the top of our budget when it comes to buying whiskey (not including special occasions.) While this may seem expensive, it’s actually WhistlePig’s more affordable selection. Prior to the PiggyBack release, they were producing 10 year, 12 year, 15 year, and 18 year selections of their rye whiskey.
My main concern with WhistlePig PiggyBack is the price in addition with it being produced as a whiskey for use in cocktails. For many of us, $50 is a lot of money to spend on whiskey, and we’re meant to mix it? I know it’s not meant for a whiskey coke, but can a $30 bottle not do the same thing PiggyBack aims to?
WhistlePig PiggyBack Taste
Alright, while this is meant to be a cocktail whiskey, we are here to review the profile of PiggyBack neat and on the rocks. After, we’ll try WhistlePig in a couple of cocktails to see how it holds up. Let’s get to my favorite part… pouring myself a glass.
Nose: The nose is fairly light, but appealing. There are stronger leather and vanilla notes than expected. Earthy notes and cinnamon spice complement it as well. The nose is more reminiscent of a bourbon as vanilla really stands out to me. Some light grain as well.
Palate: Here we get much more of the rye I was expecting. It’s almost a reverse of the nose. Vanilla takes a back seat to a stronger rye spice, light cinnamon and some peppercorn. Butterscotch, vanilla, and leather are still very much present.
Finish: As the vanilla fades away, leather, cinnamon and earthen spice, and a touch of eucalyptus make for a long and pleasant finish.
There’s a level of complexity to WhistlePig PiggyBack that makes it an interesting sip. The nose had some lighter, sweeter notes that reminded me of a high-rye bourbon, but the palate quickly reminded me that this is a rye whiskey through and through. I think the 6 years in new American oak casks allowed for just the right amount of vanilla and leather to present itself.
In terms of spice, there’s a decent balance between cinnamon and earthen spice , perhaps paprika. Too much cinnamon and it becomes reminiscent of a fireball-esque whiskey, or jack fire type of profile. Too much vegetal spice and you run into a medicinal flavor. Plenty of spice here but very well balanced.
The finish is quite long, especially when you let the whiskey wash around your mouth for a couple seconds. There’s a mint undertone to it that keeps the whiskey light and smooth from first touch through the finish.
WhistlePig PiggyBack Cocktails
As we mentioned, WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye was intended to be a whiskey used in cocktails. I, personally, don’t care what it was intended for. This is a good whiskey to enjoy neat or on the rocks. (As someone who enjoys most of his whiskey on the rocks, I must say this is better neat!) However, we are still going to try this in a couple of cocktails to see if it’s worth it, or whether you’re better off with a cheaper whiskey for your old-fashioned.
Both of these recipes, as well as others, are available on WhistlePig’s website.
WhistlePig Old Fashioned
- 1.5 oz WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye
- A couple dashes of Angostura Bitters
- 1/2 crushed sugar cube
- Orange peel
Overall, WhistlePig made a very good old-fashioned. I’d be careful with getting too aggressive on any orange or citrus flavors as the citrus and mint notes can clash. However, with the right balance, there’s plenty of earthy spice to shine through. The whiskey is center stage, everything else sits in the background. A solid Old Fashioned
WhistlePig PiggyBack Old Pal (Boulevardier)
- 1.5 oz WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye
- 1/2 oz dry vermouth
- 1/2 oz Campari
I actually prefer this to drink to the Old-Fashioned. While it’s typically referred to as a Boulevardier, WhistlePig calls it the (Here’s to you) Old Pal as a nod to the late Master Distiller, Dave Pickerell. I find that Vermouth can take over a lighter whiskey very easily, but PiggyBack Rye has enough strength to be in play. It’s also a nice mix-up from the typical and standard old fashioned.
WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye Value
I respect that Pickerell wanted to create a premium cocktail whiskey at an affordable price. In fact, I actually think WhistlePig did a great job in honoring that desire of his. HOWEVER, $50 may be an affordable bottle in relation to other selections of WhistlePig, but $50 is at the higher end of majority of people’s ideal price.
My other issue is that this is supposed to be a mixing whiskey, but it’s so damn good all on it’s own. It works great in a cocktail, but I don’t want to mix this! There are much cheaper rye whiskeys on the market that can make a cocktail of similar quality. There aren’t many rye whiskeys that can go toe to toe with PiggyBack Rye.
I’m more than okay with using this in a mixed drink. I am not buying it for the sake of mixed drinks, though. Regardless, I don’t think you can go wrong with either. It simply may come down to your budget preferences, the occasion, and how you like to enjoy your whiskey.
Summary of WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye Review
WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye has certainly cemented itself as one of our favorite rye whiskeys for the time being. Key phrase being ‘for the time being’. Our favorite whiskeys change all the time, there are things we love that become decent, and things we find decent that we come to love.
But for now, we say confidently that WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye is one of the best rye whiskeys on the market. It is all the strength and flavor of rye whiskey with all the smoothness of Canadian whisky. Don’t want to take our word for it? Pick up a bottle for yourself or try it at your local bar!