Late last month, we headed to Shelter, a very cozy pizza and whiskey bar in Williamsburg, for the unveiling of WhistlePig’s newest spirit—the Boss Hog, a single barrel uncut and unfiltered rye whiskey.
The initial release comes from 24 casks selected by Master Distiller Dave Pickerell and bottled at the WhistlePig Farm in Stoneham, Vermont.
While standing on a chair, glass raised, Pickerell, formerly the master distiller at Maker’s Mark, spoke to the crowd about his decision to release the Boss Hog at barrel strength. Since Boss Hog is barrel strength, the proof will vary from bottle-to-bottle, but the bottle we tried was a whopping 134 proof.
Pickerell’s decision to release Boss Hog at barrel strength came after experimenting with the whiskey and a little bit of water. “I put a drop in, and when I did, it peeled back a layer of the spice,” he said. “It was still interesting, so I put another drop in and it peeled back a little more.”
“I realized I’d been playing with this for half an hour, and I thought if I’m having so much fun with this, everyone else ought to have the ability to have fun with it, too.”
Pickerell encouraged us to savor the Boss Hog—with ice or without. Despite the incredibly high proof, the whiskey was smooth with lots of spice but very little burn and had notes of oak, caramel, and lots of butterscotch on the finish.
We also tried a couple of cocktails made with WhistlePig’s straight rye whiskey, which, while not as exclusive as the Boss Hog, was delicious with the thin-crust pizzas and empanadas served at Shelter.
We loved Shelter’s rustic, Americana feel which seemed to go hand in hand with their own massive whiskey offerings. Small couches draped with wool blankets mingle alongside giant communal wooden dining tables and wooly barstools, creating a perfect setting for nursing a whiskey.
The only bummer of the evening? Sadly, the WhistlePig pigs couldn’t attend.