WhistlePig Whiskey has never been shy about crossing borders. Since its inception in 2007, the Shoreham, Vermont-based producer has blended and finished a variety of American and Canadian whiskies in barrels from across the globe: Spain, Portugal, France, Japan, Jamaica, and more. Now, the distillery is crossing the Atlantic again, this time not just for its own production, but to welcome Limavady Irish whiskey into the fold.
Revived by Darryl McNally, a longtime master distiller and descendent of the brand’s original 18th-century proprietors, Limavady is focused on Irish single malt whiskey with the goal of becoming a leader in single barrels. It’s found an ideal partner in WhistlePig, as the rye brand’s single-cask expertise is substantial and a core part of its identity. The late master distiller Dave Pickerell established WhistlePig’s cask program when he devised releases like Old World, a 12-year-old blend of ryes finished in port pipes, French oak sauternes barrels, and madeira casks.
In the years since Pickerell’s untimely passing, WhistlePig has continued the cask finishing program—currently overseen by lead distiller Emily Harrison and aptly named whiskey blender Meghan Ireland—experimenting with whatever they can get their hands on, from white burgundy to a host of rums to non-oak woods like amburana and Brazilian teak. Many of these cask finishes are offered to retailers and restaurants as private picks, but the flavor results of each are recorded and kept in mind for future WhistlePig releases. Look to the annual Boss Hog limited edition for evidence of some of the most successful, innovative finishes.
With Limavady joining the portfolio, WhistlePig has the opportunity to apply its expertise to a new style of whiskey—Irish single malt—while swapping insights with an established master distiller. McNally—who was born in a bar, surely the best origin story for a distiller, ever—has worked in the Irish whiskey business for decades, most recently serving as master distiller for the Dublin Liberties Distillery. At the helm of Limavady, he plans to source single malt Irish whiskey to build out the initial releases, with the potential of opening a distillery down the road.
Joining with WhistlePig not only allows Limavady to learn from the American producer, it enables the new brand to easily enter the U.S. market through established distribution channels. Plus, luxury giant Moët Hennessy owns a minority share in WhistlePig—another boon for an up-and-coming whiskey.
Limavady will launch its first expression, a single barrel single malt priced at $50 in August. The brand is keeping mum on what else may be coming, though WhistlePig CEO Jeff Kozak confirms cask finishing will be a part of the mix. Could there be a rye-finished Limavady, or an Irish whiskey-finished WhistlePig? “It would be almost too easy and expected,” Kozak says.
He did offer a tantalizing hint: “Can WhistlePig use Irish barley on their farm in Vermont, or develop their own single malted rye? Let’s certainly hope so.”
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