Where Whistle Pig Got Its Name

I’m prepping for the Dram Devotees of Bucks County’s Whistle Pig tasting Thursday night, and I came across the funniest story about how Whistle Pig got its name.

Dave Pickerell was being interviewed by Mark Gillespie of Whiskycast, and Mark asked him the origin of the name “Whistle Pig.” (You can find the actual interview in episode 267 at whiskycast.com) Dave went on to tell a story of how Raj Bhakta, the founder of the brand, was hiking in Vail when a Frenchman on a bicycle careened down the mountain toward him. The man stopped and asked (rather oddly and in a comically high-pitched voice), “Could it beeeee…could it beeee a whistle pig?”

Raj answered, “A what? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know…a whistle pig.” The man made some strange noises into his hand in an effort to be more clear, but when he realized that Raj was not understanding, proceeded to get back onto his bike and speed away.

This memory, as ridiculous as it was, stuck with Mr.Bhakta. In 2007, he bought a 500 acre farm in Shoreham, Vermont and named it Whistle pig Farm. The financial collapse left Raj wondering how he was going to maintain his farm, and his concept was to turn the property into a working distillery and production facility. In Dec of 2008, Dave Pickerell met and befriended Raj after the two met at Vendome Copper and Brass Works Inc. By the following year, most of their plan to transform the property and start building their idea of a “grass to glass” facility was formed. Dave found his perfect 10 year old 100% rye in Alberta, Canada, and brought it back for bottling. The name Whistle Pig, not to mention the silly story, seemed perfect to both men and the brand was born!

The new distillery is finally up and running in Vermont and in less than 10 years (the age of their most famous product), the idea has become a reality. They are still sourcing product, but they are barrel aging and finishing their whiskeys in Vermont. The new release is a blend of 12 year old juice that has been finished in 3 different casks- Madeira, Sauterne and Port. I look forward to sampling some of the distillery’s new, young product. Now if only I could get some vacation time to spend a weekend in Vermont at their farm’s bed and breakfast…

Oh, and a whistle pig, by the way, is another name for a groundhog or woodchuck.  When the animal gets frightened, they make a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony of possible danger…hence the name.