Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
WhistlePig this past June released the WhistlePig Farm SummerStock Pit Viper Whiskey, blended by WhistlePig’s Chief Blender, Meghan Ireland. This is a collaboration with Pit Viper, the sunglasses maker known for their bombastic style. It’s a natural fit and a celebration of the fact at the farm is now solar powered. An added bonus? Portions of the sales wgo to Everybody Solar, a non-profit working to give solar power to organizations in need.
WhistlePig was founded in 2007 by Raj Peter Bhakta who purchased an old dairy farm in Shoreham, VT, and began the process of converting it to a rye whiskey distillery. Bhakta partnered with the legendary David Pickerell, of Marker’s Mark fame. Pickerell had discovered an incredible Canadian rye whisky, and he needed the right marketing partner to sell this gem for what it was truly worth.
Together, Bhakta and Pickerell released WhistlePig’s 10 Year Rye to the world in 2010, wowing reviewers and the public.
Since 2015, WhistlePig has been distilling its own rye in house and aging in wood harvested from the over 450-acre farm. So far, only select releases are completely from Vermont. The company, despite the loss of Pickerell and the contentious departure of Bhakta, still sources much of its rye for most of its releases.
The WhistlePig Farm SummerStock Pit Viper Whiskey was finished in three different types of oak: the classic WhistlePig char 3 barrels, a proprietary toast, and sun toasted barrels. What are sun toasted barrels? They’re a little tight with the details, but it’s described as barrels toasted by solar rays much as you would start a fire with a magnifying glass. Sounds like they’re having lots of fun experimenting on the farm.
The whiskey is “solara” aged, a rethinking and re-spelling of solera aging. The latter, also known as fractional blending, is an old technique strongly associated with Sherry production. It’s a way of batching vintages over the years with the goal of consistency in the final product.
For WhistlePig Farm, “solara” is in reference to their sun-toasted barrels used to age this whiskey. Instead of blending over time, in email correspondence they describe it as “an experimental approach to finishing and fractional blending, taking the same method as a solera, but with different toast/char profiles (instead of ages).”
The whiskey is available in stores for $72.99. If you’re interested in picking up a bottle with an exclusive pair of Pit Viper SummerStock 2000s sunglasses, the combo is available exclusively through WhistlePig’s shopping site for a limited time.
Tasting Notes: WhistlePig Farm SummerStock Pit Viper Whiskey
Vital Stats: Aged in char 3 oak barrels and finished in char 3 barrels, a proprietary toast, and sun toasted barrels, 43% ABV, mash bill: wheat and rye, SRP $72.99/ 750ml bottle or $149.99 with the sunglasses.
Appearance: This is golden in color with a yellow undertone and moderate intensity.
Nose: My initial impression is of malted cereal, red apples, and butter crackers. The palate opens up into melted butter poured over braised carrots. The savory note leads into mild sweet flavors of pears poached in vanilla sugar. It’s rich and decedent. There’s a wisp of anise on the finish that adds interest. Their tasting note mentions maple a few times, which I can pick up on.
To me, the maple character is like maple hard candy instead of maple syrup or maple sugar candy. Us New Englanders get particular about tree sap.
Palate: On the palate, when tasted neat, this is a bit cloying and syrupy on the mouth with a gentle prickle from the alcohol. The flavor reminds me of chocolate caramel candies such as chocolate turtles or pecan clusters. The finish when neat leaves a lot wanting with its pungent melted butter character and moderately short length.
It being summer, I decided to give this another go with a giant ice cube, and I was very satisfied with the results. The ice mellows the buttery note and invites the fruit and spice notes out to play. Chilled, this leans in to its apple and baking spice vibes, and also accentuates the astringency and alcohol to better balance the lush body. On the rocks, this tastes like a day at the county fair with notes of caramel popcorn, candied apples, and dusty straw bales. It doesn’t lose much pungency, so break out your biggest ice mold and go to town.