By Richard Thomas
When I lifted the straps securing the heavy case to the pedestal — yes, that is the kind of packaging the bottle had — I found myself thinking “wow, it really has been seven years with Boss Hog?” Yet our deputy editor Kurt Maitland reviewed the first installment back in 2013, that originator being a 12 1/2 year old, 100% rye whiskey from Alberta, Canada, done as a single barrel and bottled at cask strength.
Boss Hog VII is still a single barrel, and it remains a cask strength, this time drawn from 17 year old stock. This installment has been dubbed “Magellan’s Atlantic,” a nod to the finishing cask choices. First, they put the whiskey in casks of Spanish oak, noted for its tannic qualities. Then they gave the whiskey a round of tertiary maturation, moving it over to barrels made from exotic teak. Hence Magellan, going from Spain to Brazil. These were short finishes, three weeks for the Spanish oak and just three days for the teak wood. My bottle came out at 105.2 proof.
Despite the three rounds of wood and extended aging, a pour of Boss Hog 2020 comes out with a light amber coloring.
Knowing all of this, I got started wondering if the limited-but-unusual finishing process would sing out enough to be heard next to the ultra-aged rye whiskey. The one thing I wasn’t expecting was a light, airy scent, but that was what I got. It’s maple syrup sweet with a wintergreen, minty manner of spiciness stirred in, the whole thing smacking very much of standing in that particular kind of forest on a crisp, clear early winter’s day. Throw in a hint of raisin scone, say by imaging that as your trail treat in tucked in your pocket, and you’ve got the smell of Boss Hog VII down.
It’s coincidental my schedule didn’t allow me to take notes on this bottle and then write it up until it would appear just days before Christmas, because the flavor profile is intensely rooted in Christmas cakes and cookies. That wintergreen element meets baking and cookie spices, cherries and golden (not maple) syrup, coming together in such a way as to be akin to Black Forest Cake sans the chocolate. And whereas I thought the nose was light and airy, the texture of the liquid is more buttery. From there, the whiskey departs in a friendly manner, finishing with mild sweetness and spiciness.
This whiskey is a sophisticated, magnificently yummy oddball, so much so that I fear its virtues will be at least partially lost on drinkers who aren’t intimate with rye whiskey. Anyone can enjoy it, but it’s in off in a part of the flavor palette only a few other whiskeys of any description occupy. Whatever inspired the folks at WhistlePig to pull this one off, they produced a memorable bottle in a memorable year.
You won’t forget the price tag either: $500.