The folks at Wigle Whiskey sure know how to throw a party. Need proof? (Fill in your own nerdy spirits pun, please.) I can’t think of a single other event that includes barrel-aged cocktails, a pig roast with all the fixins’ and several grown men piloting a tiny DeLorean across the 16th Street Bridge. But at Friday’s Barrel Roll and Barrelhouse Opening Party, guests were treated to all this and a lot more. The whole weekend, in fact, was jam-packed with events, with more parties to celebrate the Kentucky Derby and the Pittsburgh Marathon. But amidst all the cornhole and juleps, one thing stood out—a sneak peek at Wigle’s brand new bourbon.
Wigle has been flying the flag for rye since they started, championing the spicy, assertive style of whiskey once ubiquitous in Western Pennsylvania. And they have made a range of other products in the three or so years they’ve been distilling, from Dutch-style gin to rosemary-lavender cocktail bitters. But until now, they’ve steered clear of bourbon, the beloved American spirit that’s experienced wild growth in recent years.
That’s about to change. On Friday night, distiller Ben Taylor pulled samples of bourbon straight from the casks for everyone’s tasting pleasure. Though the whiskey had only spent about a year in a barrel (relatively young for bourbon) and hadn’t yet been diluted or blended, the result was still remarkably smooth and incredibly flavorful. Taylor chalked up much of that character to the unique variety of corn they employed.
Wigle being Wigle, they didn’t take the easy route and distill from big sacks of commodity corn trucked in from the Midwest. Instead they sourced some locally grown Wapsie Valley corn, an heirloom variety long prized by Native Americans. Wigle’s bourbon is also distinctive in that it is wheated, meaning the secondary grain is wheat rather than rye (Maker’s Mark is the most familiar example of a wheated bourbon). These elements—along with Wigle’s grain-to-bottle, small-batch approach—come together to make a captivating bourbon. The sweet, starchy quality of the corn shines through, as do notes of caramel and a touch of smoke from the oak barrels. It’s a whiskey that’s completely unlike anything coming out of the big Kentucky bourbon houses, and it seems more than okay with that.
The first release of bourbon on May 29th will be fairly limited. If you aren’t among the lucky few who grab the initial round of bottles, not to worry. There’s more bourbon on the way, including a four-grain version that includes—what else?—rye in the mash. I have a hunch there are some parties in the works.
In other news…
Tickets are now on sale for the fourth annual Northside Sandwich Sampler, to be held at The Priory on June 18th.
Though Saturday was the last day for Lawrenceville’s Tamari, the space won’t stay closed for long. A new restaurant called Lulu Kitchen, which will also feature a variety of Asian dishes and sushi, is set to open there in just a month.
May is looking especially fatty for bacon fanatics. Between this month’s opening of Bakn in Carnegie and the America Loves Bacon Festival on May 16th, Pittsburgh’s arteries are getting put through their paces.