Issue link: http://digital.copcomm.com/i/343109
50 / the tasting panel / july 2014 IN THE BIZ Anthony Dias Blue: So, Raj, tell me how you first got started in the spirits industry. Raj Peter Bhakta: I guess you can trace my entry back to The Apprentice. It was that experience that led to my congres- sional race. After that loss, I decided to buy a 500-acre former dairy farm in Vermont to lick my wounds. During the financial crisis of 2008, I had to make the farm work so I started growing grains, which later would be turned into alcohol. Thus, I spent a couple of years studying the spirits industry and by 2010 it had become apparent that craft whiskey, particularly rye whiskey, was in a broad upswing. It's a really wonderful product. Your Master Distiller, Dave Pickerell, is behind some of the whiskies' great complexity. How did he get involved? Dave had a colleague who was sitting on a great old stash of rye. He was looking for a partner to bring the cache whiskey to market. We went out and hand-selected the best barrels and that's what went into WhistlePig. Dave [who formerly worked at Maker's Mark] was absolutely instrumental in selecting the whiskey. Through his great taste, WhistlePig is now one of the most highly decorated rye whiskeys out there. The regular WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey 10 Years Old is abso- lutely stunning. Then there's the incredible "The Boss Hog"—can you tell us more about that? You know, The Boss Hog is essen- tially WhistlePig amped up in every way. It is our non plus ultra. When we find a barrel that is unique and extraor- dinary, we set it aside and put it in our annual release of Boss Hog. As the name implies, it's our biggest, best, and boldest whiskey. We bottle it at cask strength. Raj says that he hopes consumers here and across the world will recog- nize rye as being equal if not superior to some of the best single malt Scotches. Rye is very hot right now and WhistlePig hit the market at the perfect time—led by none other than the King of Rye. Welcome the King of Rye WHISTLEPIG CEO RAJ PETER BHAKTA EXPLAINS HOW HE GOT—AND KEEPS— THE TITLE TASTING NOTES WhistlePig Rye Whiskey 10 Years Old, USA ($70) 100 proof Amber color; lovely vanilla, caramel and spice nose; smooth and creamy with amazing generous texture for a 100-proof spirit; elegant and all-American with luscious, rich and juicy style; long and mellow; exceptionally drinkable—even at full strength. 94 points WhistlePig "The Boss Hog" Straight Rye Whiskey, USA ($150) 135 proof Fragrant, lush and lovely grain and vanilla, toasty oak and caramel; astonishing, powerful (barrel strength) and yet very elegant; intense, layered and complex with honey, spice and dried fruits; very long and fresh. An amazing achievement. 96 points by Anthony Dias Blue The King of Rye has arrived. Raj Peter Bhakta, founder and CEO of WhistlePig Rye Whiskey, went from being a contestant on The Apprentice, to run- ning for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, to traveling the jungles of India, eventually becom- ing one of the top rye whiskey producers in the country. We talked to him to learn more about how WhistlePig got to where it is today. PHOTO COURTESY OF WHISTLEPIG Down on the farm: WhistlePig founder/ CEO Raj Peter Bhakta (left) and Master Distiller Dave Pickerell.