Wigle is a small craft distillery located in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, PA. (The Strip District sounds racy, but really it’s home to amazing grocery stores—including a butcher’s shop where you can buy, for example, lion—a plethora of great restaurants, a few funky furniture stores, and a dedicated fine chocolate shop, which doesn’t necessarily merit inclusion, but I love fine chocolate.)
Wigle’s name comes from Philip Wigle, a Western Pennsylvania rye distiller who, in the 1794 Whiskey Rebellion, beat up a tax collector and burned his house down. For these crimes, he was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to hang, but had his sentence commuted by George Washington, hopefully because GW loved Wigle’s whiskey, but probably for other, more-defensible-in-a-court-of-
The nose, at first blush, was trepidation-worthy. It was more damning than the Steele dossier! It was as off-putting as tannic badger micturations pooling in a baking-hot pothole in the noontime August sun in Moab, Utah. And then, that unpleasantness blows off, and a crazy, foamy, savory, malt-toasty-riffic nose emerges like Superman bursting out of Clark Kent’s Men’s Wearhouse suit. WTF??? (in a really good way) We got imperial stout and a long Dominican Republic 55% cacao bar.
The mouth is so crazygood, so chocolately-mocha, so beery and stouty that we do what we rarely do: Read the label, which informs us that the whiskey is made in collaboration with Grist House Craft Brewery in Millvale, and in particular, the mashbill is based on a Russian stout. (As Impostors, we are prone to congratulate ourselves on the rare occasions we nail something.) John started lighting up like the pinball machine played by Elton John in the Who’s Tommy, blithering on about new compass points and beloved whiskies made from beer. (I usually ignore John. Sorry, John.)
It finishes like Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer) surfing down a stout wave on a chocolate slide. If the Wry Rusky—now seen surely as a pun on Rye Whiskey and Russian Imperial Stout—met a Russian Imperial Stout holding hands with a Hershey’s Chocolate Bar walking down an alley, it would spin them around like a centrifuge, then gleefully hoist them up on its shoulders shouting that it was time to make merry.
On the scale of food writers and celebrity chefs–
The Wigle Wry Rusky is Anthony Bourdain–He’s able to go to exotic locales, fight through any of his innate cultural prejudices, and find the glory in what is locally on offer. He’s a best-selling author who is one of the world’s most influential chefs and has become a sensitive ally. You might recoil for a moment from his strong personality, but then you’ll be entranced.
–Our thanks to Wigle for the sample!