“If you’re good, you’re always looking over your shoulder” – Bruce Springsteen
We’re beginning with a quote from The Boss because today we’ll be considering the latest high-priced limited edition whiskey from WhistlePig’s Boss Hog lineup. The 2022 version of Boss Hog marks the the 9th iteration of the expression and this one is dubbed “Siren’s Song” because, like the sirens of Greek mythology (says Liz Rhoades WhistlePig’s Head of Whiskey Development), the brand’s decision makers “were drawn to the distinctly unique flavors of Greece and how they would interact with the bold flavor of our aged Rye Whiskey.”
Of course, one is free to roll one’s eyes at much of WhistlePig’s marketing material, as they tend to take tongue-in-cheek references to levels hitherto unheard of in the whiskey world… and that’s saying something. However, I would argue that they certainly deserve a bit of credit for experimenting with this particular release.
What the hell are scratch tentura barrels? Tentura, I’ll have you know, is a Greek liqueur originating in the Peloponnesian city of Patras. WhistlePig took it upon themselves to recreate that liqueur on their farm from scratch, for the purpose of finishing their sourced rye whiskey. They use cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, orange peel, and honey as flavoring agents for a unique take on the traditional distillate alcohol. In further pleasing the Grecian gods, they also created their own fig nectar before using those casks as the second finishing barrel for this release.
With the North American whiskey scene bursting at the seams with ever-more-inventive finishing casks vis-a-vis “exploratory series” that send us further from the well-worn ground whiskey purists dare not stray, it’s worth considering whether brands are in the pursuit of new flavor frontiers or are simply seeking to wield their marketing team’s most formidable weapon – the word “new.” We’ll give that consideration its due just below, but first let’s acknowledge another unique innovation employed in the production of this whiskey.
For this release, WhistlePig opted to utilize NFC technology (not to be confused with NFT’s, or the National Football Conference) which is short for near-field communication. The technology can be accessed via a barcode that you scan with a smartphone to verify the authenticity of each bottle. While NFT’s have been as ruinous to the dignity of the whiskey market as a 300-year drought was to ancient Greece, NFC’s seem like a worthwhile idea that may actually catch on, having similarly been utilized by Buffalo Trace for their Antique Collection beginning in 2022.
With regards to the previous two paragraphs, which is more out of control: the black market for high end whiskey, or the boundaries being pushed in pursuit of finding the next en vogue finishing barrel? A question I pose for your consideration while you sip your next exotic cask concoction.
Now let’s address the specifics of the bottle under review today. WhistlePig The Boss Hog IX: Siren’s Song is a (sourced) straight rye whiskey of unspecified age, finished in barrels that previously held fig nectar and scratch Tentura made right at WhistlePig’s Vermont farm using both local and Greek ingredients. It should also be noted that this is the first release in WhistlePig’s Boss Hog lineup to forego an age statement. We will be addressing the elephant in the room further below: the fact that it carries a suggested retail price of $599, but to dispense with the last of the pertinent details let us also note that it is proofed between 102.5 (51.25% ABV) and 106.2 (53.1% ABV), depending on the barrel. The barrel I will be considering today is barrel #2, which is 106.2 proof, and was graciously supplied by the brand at no cost to myself, though that will in no way affect my score.
WhistlePig The Boss Hog IX: Siren’s Song – Review
Color: Light honeysuckle.
On the nose: On a fresh crack, this has one of the most beautifully ebullient noses I’ve experienced in recent memory. I mean, it absolutely sings (sorry) as soon as the cork is popped as it leads with notes of fig newton, peach iced tea, and date syrup which float on a cloud of vanilla chai tea. Expounding on that last note, close your eyes and imagine a medley of powdered clove, cinnamon, allspice, and cardamom. With a faint bit of black pepper and the slightest indication of oak rounding out the nosing notes, I’ll add that while it begins rather robust it does thin out after time in the glass.
In the mouth: The spices burst on the first sip as all of the aforementioned players make an appearance, but it quickly turns sweet as the fig newton and peach flavors satiate the middle of the tongue before taking a turn towards the vanilla chai tea notes with slightly more clove and cinnamon than the nose indicated. As this pour progresses to the finish, a dollop of honey arrives in conjunction with the reemergence of the spice kick. There’s a deft balance between those spice notes and the sweet ones but despite its light and oily texture this sip finishes by drying out the palate in a way that is perhaps too pronounced.
Let me come right out and say that the price of this bottle is the most difficult thing about it to swallow. However, it’s also a pretty captivating flavor journey that deftly blends its disparate parts and comes together for a highly enjoyable and unique whiskey. Expectations should near the heights of Mount Olympus when one tastes a $600 bottle, and though the cost of this release is enough to leave you light-headed, WhistlePig has absolutely hit the mark on producing a stellar and singular drinking experience. I can only draw a comparison to Barrell’s Gold Label Seagrass, in that they’re both high-priced and highly original offerings. Neither of them can be accused of applying lipstick to a pig (sorry); they’re actually really exceptional whiskeys.
So then, while I can’t justify the cost, I can highly recommend trying this whiskey if you can. I’m surprised to say WhistlePig The Boss Hog IX: Siren’s Song is one of the most enjoyable new whiskeys that I’ve had in the past year. While “it would be either reckless or decadent” – to quote Malt’s Scoring Bands – to purchase this bottle, even with two points deducted due to the wallet-wilting SRP I still believe this admirable effort has resulted in truly great whiskey.