Rye whiskey fans take note: WhistlePig has released the 2014 version of the vaunted Boss Hog. The ultra-premium expression will fetch upwards of $175 per 750mL bottle. Although it doesn’t take much to recognize the quality craftsmanship of this spectacular single-barrel spirit, is it worth the steep price tag? Let’s delve deeper into the glass to explore the Dram of the Week.
Dubbed the “Spirit of Mortimer” in honor of WhistlePig’s signature swine, this year’s Boss Hog spent 13 and a half years in the barrel. Bottled at cask strength, the booze clocks in at a hefty proof of 118. The measurement is belied by the ease with which the liquid passes over the tongue. A sweet vanilla lands first, and any intimations of harsh booziness are mellowed by more than a decade’s worth of oak dominating the underlying landscape.
Purists will surely go giddy for the 100 percent rye mash bill, allowing an unobstructed interpretation of the namesake grain. It’s a gentle spice afforded here. Consider that despite a complete lack of corn, the Hog drinks much like a high-end bourbon. That’s all from the oak, of course. But a typical bourbon would have to spend many more years in the barrel to impart the rounded tones of this 13-year rye.
If you’re looking for an intimate introduction to this style of whiskey, WhistlePig’s entry-level expression would be a far more sensible starting point. The flagship is also 100 percent rye, ages for 10 years, and justifies its $70 tag. For $100 more, the exceptionally limited-batch Boss Hog is better suited to the cabinet of the connoisseur. In fact, with the bottle’s sleek presentation — stately black labeling, gently sloped lines, a Danforth pewter topper — it is befitting of conspicuous display on an open shelf.
For all its elegance, much of the added tax is owed to the luxury of the single barrel. Whereas most rye integrates casks blended from several years or even various warehouses, this juice sat together in solemn singularity for the duration of its maturation. If the purity of that distinction elicits nothing more than shrugged shoulders, the Boss Hog was never intended for you. But if you venerate this proud American grain and are willing to drop an extra bill to see what it’s capable of, at its highest levels, 2014’s Boss Hog is worth the price of admission. Its delicately crafted complexity stacks up against that of bourbons twice as costly.
A precious few bottles are currently passing their way through select liquor stores across town. If you prefer but a small taste, The Marshal in Hell’s Kitchen is doing a barrel-aged cocktail, as is Scarpetta in Chelsea. Sip on it neat at Trattoria il Mulino in the Flatiron.