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Fans of WhistlePig, a Vermont distillery known primarily for its contributions to the recent re-popularization of rye, probably won’t bat an eye to learn that they’ve teamed up with the Alfa Romeo F1 Team on a limited edition release. Besides their affinity for the spicy grain, WhistlePig is also known for some pretty out-of-the-box collaborative launches geared for the adventurous imbiber looking for something a little bit different. The latest release of WhistlePig’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series—tagged as the Alfa Romeo F1® Team State Barrel—certainly delivers on that promise.
WhistlePig’s new single barrel expression is a 100 percent high rye whiskey selected by the Alfa Romeo F1 Team Stake drivers before being trialed in their wind tunnel and bottled at exactly 96.77 proof—a nod to Valtteri Bottas’ racing number, 77, and “the precision of racing.” What’s more, this third iteration of the brand’s Single Barrel PiggyBack Legends Series was inspired by Zhou Guanyu, the first Chinese F1 driver.
Finished with lychee and oolong tea, the whiskey takes on an extremely fruity and floral aroma and taste, marked by juicy notes of tropical fruit that are balanced by the herbal astringency of the oolong tea. The initial pop of lychee is also mellowed on the finish by the base notes of WhistlePig’s rye, with notes of vanilla, black pepper, raisin, and orange peel. While most “flavored” whiskies tend to skew a bit artificial and intense, we were pleasantly surprised by the unique flavor of this expression. Smooth on the palate and great for sipping neat, it could work equally well in a fruit-forward whiskey cocktail.
“Joining forces with WhistlePig to release a Single Barrel Rye Whiskey that represents my culture and team has been an honor,” said Guanyu in a statement. “Formula 1 brings together fearless, thrill-seeking motorsports professionals, and WhistlePig has a shared passion for boundary-pushing innovation. Together, we’ve selected something alarmingly good for fans to enjoy this season when the cars are not on track.”
For those wondering why single-barrel rye would be taken for a spin in a wind tunnel (and subsequent rides back at WhistlePig’s farm and distillery in Vermont), head blender Meghan Ireland remarks that it encourages the hastening of the interaction between whiskey and wood, intensifying the flavors of the spirit through a process called “dynamic aging”—an increasingly popular tactic that actually has roots in the 1800s, from the time when ships would carry spirits to and fro across the ocean.
The recent release follows the success of WhistlePig’s first two iterations of their Legends Series, which included a single barrel expression in collaboration with Major League Baseball Hall of Famer “Big Papi” David Ortiz, and one with popular country music duo, The Brothers Osborne. It is currently available for purchase online for $50 (SRP) and in select stores nationwide.[$50; whistlepigwhiskey.com]