Best Vermont spirit
WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey is tucked down a winding dirt road in sleepy Shoreham, but its provincial headquarters belies the no-holds-barred rise of Vermont’s favorite spirits company. Under the guidance of charismatic, hard-charging owner Raj Peter Bhakta and the expertise of a master distiller formerly of Maker’s Mark, the company roped in some impressive awards after hitting shelves two years ago — including the highest-ever rating for rye whiskey from Wine Enthusiast.
Seven Days reached Bhakta in Scotland, where he was touring and researching distilleries — “Studying how these guys are doing it, with a view on beating them, of course,” says Bhakta. WhistlePig is currently bottling Canadian rye whiskey, but plans to plant 300 acres of rye in Shoreham this fall and celebrate the grand opening of its Vermont distillery next spring. SEVEN DAYS: You’ve named WhistlePig’s parent company Go America Go. What does a good rye whiskey have to do with patriotism?
RAJ PETER BHAKTA: Rye whiskey became the whiskey of America during the American Revolution, so Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys would probably be drinking rye. In fact, George Washington was the biggest rye-whiskey distiller in the country. It’s our unabashed objective to make the best whiskey in the world, and if it can be done, America can do it.
2012 Runner-up: Caledonia Spirits & Winery