Wigle Whiskey: Distillery Tour Review and Pics
*Authors note: If a fact or two is stretched or bent in this article I apologize, but to be fair I’m writing it from memory after touring a WHISKY DISTILLERY!
So when I was asked to go on a whisky distillery tour I was a bit hesitant. I haven’t had a drop of whiskey since the Fall of 1999 on a first date. If I remember correctly, and I think I do, it didn’t end well. In fact, it ended with me throwing bagels at joggers and my date kindly leaving me to fall asleep on a neighbor’s lawn. But in the spirit of adventure I said, “Yes.” Maybe it was time for me to turn over a new alcoholic leaf.
The day of the tour was crappy out. Rain, cold and to make matters worse I was sick with a head cold. All I wanted to do was lay on the couch with the dog and watch old James Bond movies on Netflix. I asked Wife if she still wanted to go. She said, “Maybe.” Somehow – with lacking motivation and an unenthusiastic wife – I dug down deep into my reserves and dragged myself (and her along with me) down to the Strip to Wigle Whiskey.
The garage door into their tasting room was open when we got there. We checked in with the man with the clipboard wearing a Wigle Whiskey t-shirt. Clipboards make people look authoritative. He suggested we push our way up to the “bar” and get a complimentary whiskey cocktail. I was relieved. I had imagined the whole thing to be just straight shots of whiskey, but never considered it in a cocktail. Our choices were the Summerset, Parakeet and Coconut Bird. We settled on the Summerset and Parakeet with lemon and pomegranate flavors advertised. I nervously put the drink to my mouth ready to annihilate 13 years of whiskey abstinence. Surprisingly, it was refreshing and not at all stomach turning or an instant drunk as I feared. I didn’t throw up or get attacked by a dragon or anything. In fact it was pretty damn good. I might as well be drinking a lemonade with a pleasant oaky flavor to it.
Now that the first sip was out of the way I took a moment to look around. The space is compact, but efficient and really well designed. Simple but appealing. I’m not just saying that because they also put snacks out for us. Then an announcement was made and the collected group of whiskey lovers or at least whiskey triers were whisked into the main room of the distillery for the tour.
Meredith was our whiskey tour guide. And like any good guide she knew how to keep us engaged. She started to tell us the story of Phillip Wigle and the Pennsylvania Whiskey Rebellion. It was a story of oppression, gunplay, arson and forgiveness. And while learning about the namesake of Wigle Whiskey we also learned about the process of making whiskey. Why it might be white vs. brown, where the grain comes from, how long it was distilled and so on. We also learned about the Grelli and Meyer families who own and operate the distillery. Essentially everyone we interacted with from the clipboard guy, to the bartender to the actual makers, testers and bottlers of the whiskey is family.
Finally, we sat down for the tasting. As someone who has gone on numerous brewery tours I assumed our tasting would involve some sort of line, plastic cups and some general uncomfortable chit chat with other tour goers. I was happily surprised when we were told that the tables set up for what looked to be a fancy dinner party were actually for us. Everyone on the tour had a spot with a chalkboard name tag at it (though mine said Andy), two glasses pre-filled with a rye and a wheat whiskey and some ice. Meredith talked us through the tasting. Educating us about the mixing of water with our booze and how it opens up some of the flavors.
Even though I was a bit nervous to drink in non-cocktail form I put the first snifter with the white whiskey to my lips and tipped it back. There was that distinctive whisky flavoring but for the most part if tasted clean and smooth and while my palette isn’t quite whiskey sensitive yet, I did enjoy it. I preferred the cocktail version but I could see how whiskey could grow on me. I did the same with the rye and immediately wanted to go and buy bagels to start throwing. I wasn’t quite ready for its booming taste. Wife, however, preferred the stronger tasting rye and once again reminded me how badass she is.
With the tasting finished we were free to wander about, buy whiskey and have a sample of Wigle whiskey-infused chocolates from a chocolatier down the street. It was the tour that kept on giving. One of the cooler purchasing options was a mini-oak whiskey cask in which you could age a bottle of Wigle whiskey or infuse it with just about anything you like.
Despite my general feelings of malaise and apprehension going into the tour the folks at Wigle put me at ease with their sincere appreciation for the art of distilling, appealing atmosphere and willingness to educate without making a novice whiskey drinker feel inadequate. I’m even considering drinking whiskey again using some of the whiskey cocktail recipes they gave us as parting gifts. I’ll just have to make sure there aren’t any bagels nearby.