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WhistlePig finishes rye whiskey in umeshu barrels

Vermont-based producer WhistlePig has launched a limited edition 16-year-old rye whiskey finished in umeshu-seasoned barrels, called The Boss Hog: The Samurai Scientist.

The Samurai Scientist is finished in umeshu-seasoned barrels from Japanese brewery Kitaya

WhistlePig partnered with Japanese brewery Kitaya, which produces saké, shōchū and umeshu, to create the limited edition offering. Kitaya is located near Yame City in the Fukuoka Prefecture of Kyushu Island.

It is the sixth edition in WhistlePig’s Boss Hog range, which includes expressions aged in a variety of casks such as Scotch and Calvados apple brandy.

The rye whiskey was finished in barrels that contained Saikoo, a “uniquely traditional” umeshu aged for 11 years.

“With umeshu being an intensely aromatic spirit, it does not take long to impart deeply complex flavours,” said Pete Lynch, master blender of WhistlePig.

“Each barrel of The Samurai Scientist is bottled at proof. Only 90 barrels exist and each bottle notes the barrel number and proof, ranging between 120-122.”

The whiskey was distilled in Canada using koji fermentation and was bottled by hand on the WhistlePig Farm in Shoreham.

The new expression is said to be “powerfully complex and distinctly unique from anything WhistlePig has introduced before”.

The whiskey is named after Japanese chemist Jōkichi Takamine, who introduced koji fermentation to the American whiskey industry in the 19th century.

“It was an honour to work alongside the team at Kitaya to bring this collaboration to life in the form of the first American whiskey finished in Japanese umeshu barrels,” added Jeff Kozak, CEO, WhistlePig.

“With the introduction of The Samurai Scientist, WhistlePig continues to pave the way for innovation across the rye category.”

‘Distinctly unique’

In November 2018, the industry mourned the loss of WhistlePig master distiller Dave Pickerell, who died in San Francisco.

“Dave Pickerell committed to five promises for The Boss Hog, including being distinctly unique from anything we’ve done before,” Kozak continued.

“He had a thirst for exploring and trialling techniques from around the world, and Takamine was likeminded in propelling whiskey innovation across continents. This vision continues to drive us to explore beyond the limits of American whiskey.”

On the nose, the expression is “intensely aromatic, with cinnamon, maple syrup and toasted marshmallow”. The palate brings “bold notes of tobacco, ginger baking spices and savoury umami”. The addition of a few drops of water reveals rye spice, oak char and vanilla.

The bottle comes with a pewter stopper representing Takamine’s heritage and contributions to the chemistry industry.

Bottled at 60-61% ABV, The Samurai Scientist is available in premium alcohol stores, bars and restaurants in the US, with select international markets to follow in the coming weeks.

The whiskey will launch in the UK on 1 December and will be available from The Whisky Exchange, Master of Malt and Hedonism Wines with an RRP of £600 (US$772).

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