Since making its debut back in 2007, Vermont’s WhistlePig has worked tirelessly to elevate the status of traditional North American rye whiskey. And it’s safe to say the brand has accomplished that mission. Not only are the distillery’s core rye offerings among the best in the industry, but its various high-end limited bottles — such as the annual Boss Hog releases — attract the kind of immediate sellouts and marked-up reselling frenzies that are normally reserved for the white-hot bourbon market.

Now in its 16th year in business, WhistlePig is setting its sights on propping up another unsung whiskey style: North American single-malt whiskey. Typically, when you think of single malts, you’re picturing Scotch whiskies with generations of history behind them. But the popularity of domestic single-malt whiskey on this side of the Atlantic has been ramping up in recent years — and now, WhistlePig is poised to blow the doors wide open in the segment with the release of The Béhôlden.

It's a 21-year-old single-malt whiskey that the brand classifies as the first-ever “super-aged” North American single malt; it's matured for over twice as long as the next oldest in the category. I had the good fortune of tasting WhistlePig’s The Béhôlden ... and describing it as “worth the hype” is an understatement.

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What kind of whiskey is WhistlePig The Béhôlden?

The Béhôlden is a single-malt North American whiskey, meaning it was produced at a single distillery from a single malted grain in North America. In this case, the whiskey was distilled from 100% malted barley over 21 years ago at the oldest single-malt distillery on the continent — the brand is keeping the exact distillery close to the vest, but based on the available information, it's likely Glenora Distillery in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was matured in American oak ex-bourbon barrels and then finished off at the WhistlePig Farm in Vermont for four weeks in former 10-year rye barrels before finally going into the bottle at 92 proof.

a whistlepig whiskey bottle on a counter
There aren’t a whole lot of North American spirits that are old enough to legally drink themselves.

What are WhistlePig The Béhôlden’s tasting notes?

WhistlePig’s official tasting notes for the 21-year single malt include golden raisin, graham cracker, black cherry and oak with maple and praline, with a faintly smoky finish. But since official tasting notes can often be tough to translate in the real world, I tried the whiskey myself. Here are my impressions.

Tasting WhistlePig The Béhôlden 21-Year Single Malt

First, I’ve got to give some props to WhistlePig here for the presentation. The brand always kills it in this department (see its Piggybank Rye for proof), and The Béhôlden is its most impressive packaging yet. The whiskey arrives in a solid wood mini-wardrobe engraved with its branding and sporting a gold-colored metal placard on the front that you slide off to open a pair of double doors, exposing the bottle within. You could argue that it’s a bit much, but it makes the tasting even more of an experience — and I for one am all for it.

a whistlepig whiskey case on a counter
Is the whiskey wardrobe too much, or just enough?
Johnny Brayson

On to the whiskey. It’s a straw-colored liquid that’s quite light in appearance, almost surprisingly so. Pour some in a glass, and the whiskey shows some decent viscosity, with legs sticking around on the sides of the glass for some time after a swirl. On the nose, the rye finish comes into play for me. I get a heavy dose of spiced oak, with a hint of cherry cordial sweetness.

Okay, enough beating around the bush: This is one of the best whiskeys I’ve ever tasted. Upon observing me take my first sip, my wife remarked how my eyes involuntarily widened to an almost comedic effect. I admit that I was shocked at how good it was.

As soon as it hits my tongue, the whiskey brings an immediate and rather intense honey-like sweetness. This will sound hyperbolic, and it’s an overused term for sure, but “nectar of the gods” was my immediate thought when I took a sip. After a second or two, other flavors come into view, namely maple, oak and oatmeal cookie with a touch of baking spice. I did pick up that whisper of smokiness in the finish, along with a mouthwatering effect that made me continually want to refill my glass.

a whiskey pig whiskey bottle on a counter with a tasting glass
WhistlePig The Béhôlden looks to put North American single-malt whiskey on the map — and it should succeed.
Johnny Brayson

Where can you get WhistlePig The Béhôlden?

Now for the bad news. WhistlePig The Béhôlden is extremely hard to come by. Just 18 barrels were produced for this initial run, and bottles sold out almost immediately upon release both at WhistlePig’s online shop and at physical retailers nationwide — this despite the eye-popping $800 price per 750ml bottle.

Just as we saw with last year’s Boss Hog bottle, Siren’s Song, which retailed for $600, sold out immediately and then began trading online for double that cost, The Béhôlden has seen its prices surge on the notorious secondary whiskey market, with the average going rate being around $1,400 a bottle according to Wine-Searcher.


WhistlePig The Béhôlden 21 Year Single Malt Whiskey

However, if you're okay with waiting, WhistlePig plans on launching a second 21-year single malt in 2024 ... with even older expressions to come in the future.