What could be more American than a 100-proof rye whiskey called WhistlePig? The acclaimed spirit ($70), whose logo is a folksy porcine caricature, has quickly become a favorite of bartenders and connoisseurs. But while it’s bottled on a farm in Vermont and aged for 10 years in American oak barrels, the alcohol wasn’t actually made in the US but in…Canada. Eh?
America’s recent insatiable thirst for straight rye, whether sipped neat or mixed in cocktails, has practically depleted domestic stocks and has led brands across the border looking for casks. Our neighbor to the north may now be famous for producing hockey players and comedians, but it also has long made rye-based blended whiskies.
“Everyone is in need of rye, and there really isn’t much left,” says Dave Pickerell, WhistlePig’s master distiller. He plans to continue bottling a Canadian spirit even after the rye he’s making in Vermont is ready to sell.
Famed American spirits company Sazerac, whose own eponymous line of rye is in short supply, introduced Caribou Crossing ($50) last spring. The brand claims the spirit, heavy with spicy rye notes, is the world’s first single-barrel Canadian whisky.
But not only are distillers buying liquor from Canada, they’re also purchasing actual rye grain. The popular Iowa-based Templeton and the award-winning Kentucky-based Rittenhouse both often use imported grain in their mashes.
As drinkers order ever more Sazeracs and Manhattans, the hunt for rye casks will carry on. It will be a while before American production catches up to the demand.
Hey Canada, got any more rye? Pickerell says anything you don’t want, he’ll buy.