The name of WhistlePig’s latest Boss Hog offering—the Spirit of Mauve—caused some head-scratching when it was first announced. Was it mauve, as in the purple-but-not-purple color? No, it was Mauve, as in the brand’s beloved pig mascot that ascended to the great sty in the sky this past Valentine’s Day at the age of 14.
This isn’t the first Boss Hog to be named in honor of a dearly departed swine. The second Boss Hog release, 2014’s the Spirit of Mortimer, was a tribute to Mauve’s mate Mortimer who died defending her honor.
As the story was related to me during a visit to WhistlePig’s Vermont farm this past June, WhistlePig once tinkered with the idea of creating its own pig breed. The brand had been launched with the pig mascots of Mauve and Mortimer, who were trotted out to the James Beard Awards on leashes and even made a visit to Occupy Wall Street. The starring swine were kunekune pigs, a smaller, easy-to-domesticate breed imported from New Zealand.
The plan was to breed Mauve with Bacon, a 2,000 pound mangalitsa. But Mortimer, loyal to the end, attempted to preserve Mauve’s honor and placed himself in Bacon’s way. Unfortunately, this gentlemanly gesture cost Mortimer his life. This tragedy became a key part of WhistlePig lore, and both its hero and villain are memorialized on-site: the farm’s copper pot still is named Mortimer, and Bacon’s head hangs on the wall of an event space.
But back to Mortimer’s widow. They say that everyone grieves differently, and in this case WhistlePig finished a 13-year old, MGP-distilled rye in Calvados casks (an homage to Mauve’s love of apples) at their farm. Like the previous editions, it is single barrel and bottled at barrel proof. On the aesthetic side, it’s packaged in a little bottle-shaped coffin and topped by a pewter stopper depicting a robed, winged Mauve.
The Spirit of Mauve pours a dark, ruddy amber-gold in the glass. Apple pie and cinnamon jump up to greet the nose immediately. Take another whiff, and there are figs, brown butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.
On the palate, it starts immediately with a sharp, acidic snap of green apple. The initial acidity turns rich and round at the palate with the emergence of brown butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, apple pie, and pecan. It’s something like biting into an incredibly rich slice of apple pie. The flavor darkens toward the back of the palate, where it turns to fig and plum. Those dark fruit flavors dissipate into sharp, tannic oak, which is then overtaken by a wave of hot, dry spice that acts like a welcome palate-cleanser after all that richness.
Like the previous iteration of Boss Hog, the Spirit of Mauve will cost you dearly. But if you’re looking for a rich, rewarding dish of a rye whiskey that shows what the category is capable of, Mauve is your lady. May she rest in peace.
— 59.5% ABV