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Whistlepig Single Barrel Straight Rye Semi-Blind Showdown: The MGP edition

Whistlepig Single Barrel Straight Rye Semi-Blind Showdown: The MGP edition

Crown Liquors #nah vs. Binny’s Cracklings vs. Total Wine and More

There are two bottles I’m always on the prowl for whenever I walk into a store that has barrel picks: Four Roses Private Selections and Whistlepig Single Barrels. I find that the store clerks take me a bit more seriously when I don’t start off with “I’m looking for Pappy, BTAC, Blanton’s, Weller…” or whatever else is allocated.  Store picks are typically some of the greatest hidden gems in liquor stores these days.  And when it comes to really satisfying my rye itch, nothing compares to Whistlepig Single Barrels.

Quick Word on Whistlepig

A quick word of caution on Whistlepig: they have consistently been the worst when it has came to revealing information about the source of whiskey that’s in their bottles.  Every bottle has a 10 year age statement and a “distilled in Canada” label on them, but almost all of the single barrels are around 13 years old and there are even some that have been released that are not Canadian, but rather rye whiskey from MGP’s distillery in Indiana. Those are the most desirable it seems because MGP rye is a different experience from the herbal and floral bombs of Canadian ryes.

Whistlepig Single Barrel Straight Rye_1

Today, I’ve assembled 3 picks that are confirmed MGP distillate (and by confirmed, I mean grilled the most knowledgeable salesperson in the store). These three bottles are all said to be around the 13 year old mark as well and vary in proof only slightly from 119.5 being the lowest to 122.6 being the highest. Crown Liquors in Indianapolis had a panel that named their bottle “#nah” because they couldn’t believe how good it was, Binny’s released two MGP picks at the same time in 2019 and nicknamed theirs “Trotter” and “Cracklings” (I chose Cracklings because of the higher proof) and the Total Wine pick came from the TW in the St. Matthews area of Louisville and was selected by a verified Total Wine team. 

So with that all being said, I put them all together in this semi-blind setting and sampled them all neat and in a glencairn.

Glass 1

Nose: Dark Brown sugar with sharp rye spices, dill, sweet hay, cherry blossom, and a nice fruity array of apples, pears and raspberries.

Palate: I’m pretty immune to most proofs these days, but this started out a bit hot. I’m thinking it’s more a culprit of the peppercorn, cinnamon and chipotle powder notes, but it does eventually taper off. That’s when I also noticed a nice oaky depth and sweet cherry Jolly Ranchers.

Finish: Beautifully balance rye spice with red pepper flakes, spiced honey, sweet mint, Red Hots candy and cherry + orange candies

Score: 8.2/10

Glass 2

Nose: This glass starts off smelling like the woods after an early spring rain. It’s crisp with a sweetness that’s more fruit juice mixed with champagne. There’s honeydew, cedar wood and fresh cut apples and also a heaping tablespoon of dark brown sugar for extra sweetness. If there’s any hint of it being a rye in the nose, it’s the Mike & Ike’s Candy scent.

Palate: Very pleasant and somewhat light in taste, but there is a spice present that’s reminiscent of fireball candy and chili powder. But there’s also a nice rye herbal-ness that’s much like mint, marjoram and oregano. Orange zest and pinewood popsicle stick also shines through.

Finish: The finish is initially somewhat harsh, but after 2 sips, it settles down and offers up many more herbal notes that were present on the palate. There’s rosemary, mint, sweet oregano, fennel seed and star anise. It’s got the whole package of herbs. There’s also wintergreen gum, citrus zest and spiced honey that really round out an incredibly pungent finish that lasts and lasts.

Score: 8.3/10

Glass 3

Nose: Sweetest nose of the bunch. Huge heaps of dark brown sugar, cherry blossoms and rose water give a nice sweet floral note and clove, cinnamon and seasoned wood are deep and vibrant and add a quasi-bourbon appeal to the aroma.

Palate: Rye spice pricks the tongue and then a big blast of cinnamon. There’s also brown sugar cookies sprinkled with cardamom, cinnamon and clove. The palate also has another trick up its sleeve when it becomes more buttery than the other 2 glasses. There’s vanilla frosting and a layer of oak that gives it an even better depth.

Finish: Heavy sweetness is the theme again. The finish is thick and chewy with the same dark brown sugar that’s been present from sniff to taste. There’s mint and both pine and cedar wood tastes. It’s a crowd-pleasing finish that may appeal to both bourbon and rye drinkers all at once.

Score: 8.4/10

Blind Reveal:

Glass 1: Binny’s Cracklings

Glass 2: Crown Liquors #nah

Glass 3: Total Wine (Louisville)

Winner: Total Wine!

Whistlepig Single Barrel Straight Rye_4

If I could’ve made these tasting notes shorter, I would have.  But the reality is that MGP rye is some of the most flavorful and complex rye there is (fight me).  MGP’s rye whiskey fully encompasses sweetness, herbalness, floral notes and dark, deep tannins. In reality, I don’t know why I’m not scoring these higher, but nothing really comes close in the realm of Rye Whiskey. Even the losers are winners here.It’s probably heresy to give beverage super-giant Total Wine the win on this, but as I’ve said before, that’s the beauty of blind tastings.

Final Thoughts

I’m sure that Total Wine takes some shortcuts by telling distillers “just pick one for us” sometimes, but when they claim to have a tasting panel select for them, they are able to put out some great picks. The Total Wine pick wins this round because of the sweetness, boldness of spices and nice depth. The Crown Pick was so temptingly close to tying, but this just seemed to edge it out.  And as you can tell by the bottle fill levels, I really do love that Crown bottle.  As a final note, always make sure to ask as much information as possible before pulling the trigger on a $90 bottle of single barrel Whistlepig, because they’re not all created equal.  And when in doubt, ask for a sample!  

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Rating Breakdown

1 | Disgusting | Drain pour (Example: Jeffers Creek)

2 | Poor | Forced myself to drink it

3 | Bad | Flawed (AD Laws 4 Grain BiB, Clyde Mays anything)

4 | Sub-par | Many things I’d rather have (Tincup 10 year)

5 | Good | Good, solid, ordinary (Larceny, Sazerac Rye)

6 | Very Good | Better than average (Buffalo Trace, OGD BiB)

7 | Great | Well above average (Old Ezra Barrel Proof, Old Weller Antique)

8 | Excellent | Exceptional (Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye, Four Roses Barrel Strength)

9 | Incredible | Extraordinary (GTS, 13 Year MGP or Canadian Rye)

10 | Insurpassable | Nothing Else Comes Close (William Larue Weller)

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