WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye was "one of Dave’s final creations."

By Mike Pomranz
Updated April 04, 2019

Asked to list the biggest names in whiskey, clichéd answers like Jack Daniels or Jim Beam are sure to be on the tip of most people’s tongues — but when it comes to distillers who have influenced modern whiskey in the United States, few names are as important as Dave Pickerell. Sadly, Pickerell passed away this past November, but his legacy will live on: He spent 14 years as master distiller at Maker’s Mark before going on to help put craft spirit pioneer WhistlePig on the map — not to mention the fact that one of his last projects before he passed away was collaborating on a whiskey with none other than rock icons Metallica.

That said, good whiskey is aged, and so like a musician with unheard material ready to be unearthed posthumously, Pickerell likely has a number of whiskies still in the barrel. Now, according to The Whiskey Wash, one of those projects is being released in his honor: WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye Whiskey.

“On behalf of Dave Pickerell, and all of us here at WhistlePig, we are pleased to share with you the latest expression in our unparalleled offering of aged rye whiskeys, one of Dave’s final creations,” Jeff Kozak, CEO of WhistlePig, was quoted as saying. “WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye is a gift from Dave to his friends across the country and around the world, and of course, the bartenders who helped forge the WhistlePig brand from the very beginning.”

As that last line suggests, this 100-percent rye whiskey is specifically intended to be used in cocktails. Aged for six years, PiggyBack was bottled at 96.56 proof with those final two decimals meant to honor the year of Pickerell’s birth, 1956. Additionally, the “pig on the bottle is not wearing a traditional Top hat but a Stetson hat,” the brand states. “The hat was Dave’s trademark, and he rarely was seen without it.”

PiggyBack Rye will reportedly be initially released in Illinois, Tennessee, Florida, Washington, D.C., and Missouri with a suggested price of about $50. WhiskeyPig also offers up a suggested cocktail for this whiskey which is billed as “powerfully spicy, with cocoa, cardamom and cured leather flavors enhancing the grain forward character of this classic rye.” Mix 1.5 ounces of PiggyBack Rye with .75 ounces each of dry vermouth and Campari; then add ice, stir, and strain into a chilled coupe before garnishing with a lemon peel.