With an educational tour featuring spirits and history, the Wigle Whiskey distillery on Smallman in The Strip District is a must. If your GPS takes you to their Barrelhouse aging location on the Northside (closed in winter), reroute to the mothership or visit both locations in warmer weather.
Tours, which require a reservation and $25, include a craft cocktail ($7-$10 value) and simple sips of five whiskeys. With dramatic intonation and exaggerated gestures our guide Kate transfixed our attention on the Whiskey Rebellion – the first taxation of an American product and the men who protested it including distillery namesake Phillip Wigle. The entertainment and education factors about this 18th century protest of Pittsburgh origin are priceless. Oh, and the spirits are worthy too.
The flagship product is an organic rye whiskey which, like all but one spirit, is organic. And, sometimes, such as the ginger-whiskey, extra funds are required to be organic. for example, locally grown, organic ginger costs 14 times that found at a regular restaurant supplier. But Wigle is about more than product and profit. The owners and staff are committed to changing the food production model and keeping it local.
When the history lesson and distillery tour ended, we squeezed through the tasting room crowd to sample additional spirits including bourbon, absinthe and gin. The absinthe is a departure from tradition, including hints of orange peel and mint that challenge the strong anise flavor. The company also makes four bitters – aromatic, lavender, orange and mole.
If you live nearby you can subscribe to a Community-Supported Alcohol (CSA, et it?) program. Wigle distributes in 10 states; still, visiting the distillery to shop is certainly worth it.