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WhistlePig Bottleside Bespoke Blend, a 12-year-aged Canadian rye whisky, is the result of a partnership between Bottlecraft, Fernside and WhistlePig Distillery.
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Bottlecraft, Fernside team with Vermont distillery for bespoke spirit

I love whiskey. I’m particularly partial to rye whiskey. There are several within arm’s reach as I write this. When I heard that local bottle shop Bottlecraft and South Park bar and restaurant Fernside teamed up with WhistlePig Distillery to create a barrel-aged Canadian rye whiskey, I wanted to know more.

Bottlecraft’s owner Brian Jensen and Christian Siglin, Fernside’s bar manager and partner, did a farm visit to the Vermont distillery last December. After days of dedicated tasting, they worked together to develop the WhistlePig Bottleside Bespoke Blend, a 12-year aged rye whiskey.

Jensen recapped the experience in a recent note to his staff:

“…Coming up with the bespoke blend was a very cool experience in which we tasted through and then blended whiskey ‘finished’ in three different ‘Old World’ casks (Madeira, Sauternes, and Port). What is a barrel finish? Finishing is the art of taking a used barrel and allowing an already mature, straight whiskey to rest in it.

“Finishing can be used to enhance the character of the whiskey without overtaking the overall flavor. The ‘Old World’ part means that the three casks originated in Europe, with Madeira and Port being fortified wines from Portugal and Sauternes, a dessert wine from France.

“Using a dropper and beaker, we combined the three finished whiskeys numerous ways until we came upon a blend that we thought was balanced, flavorful, and unique. This blend was ultimately 75% Madeira, 20% Sauternes, and 5% Port, displayed on a smaller label on the side of each bottle.

“The finishing added a touch of sweetness that balanced the spicy rye notes and increased the depth and complexity of the whiskey. Bottleside was then ‘married’ in a neutral barrel for a few months before being bottled and shipped to us.”

From Left: Monica Macias, Brian Jensen, Nikki Siglin, Christian Siglin.
Pictured from Left: Monica Macias, Brian Jensen, Nikki Siglin, and Christian Siglin.

I’m interested. I checked in with Jensen and Siglin to see where things are at now, in the moment.

Cheers!: First, I assume the name “Bottleside” is a mashup of Bottlecraft and Fernside. What inspired the collaboration between the two brands?

Brian Jensen: Christian and I have been friends for years, and we, along with our wives, have traveled all over the world eating and drinking together. He’s taught me pretty much everything I know about spirits, and I always trust his palate when picking something like this.

Christian Siglin: The mashup started as us being friends and travel partners. We both respect what each other does and want to create joint success between brands, plus it’s fun to do things that aren’t expected.

Cheers!: Whistlepig is a fairly hot name in the whiskey community, but they are all the way over on the East Coast. What made them the right partner to develop a rye whiskey with?

Jensen: I love Rye whiskey, and I love Vermont. Having the opportunity to combine those into a trip to do a barrel pick was a no-brainer! On top of that, WhistlePig makes some of my favorite whiskeys, and we had great success with our previous single barrel pick with them.

Siglin: I was fortunate to help Brian pick his first WhistlePig barrel, and when this opportunity presented itself, it just made sense to work together on this. WhistlePig is a highly respected brand and one that Dave Pickerell (RIP) helped to put on the map. It was great to be able to partner with them.

Cheers!: Bottlecraft is, arguably, known more for its craft beer selection and tasting rooms than spirits. Are spirits going to be a bigger part of Bottlecraft moving forward? What does the future look like for Bottlecraft?

Jensen: Back when I opened the first Bottlecraft in 2011, drinkers tended to stay in their camp — if you drank craft beer, you only drank craft beer. That paradigm has shifted over the last 12 years, and now people are drinking a wide variety of products, from craft beer to natural wine to funky rums. As our customers have expanded their palates, we’ve tried to reflect that in what we carry in our bars and shops. I think it’s a trend that is here to stay, and we will continue to curate new and fun options, always with an emphasis on small producers and hard-to-find products.

Cheers!: How would you recommend I drink Bottleside?

Siglin: This whiskey shines best neat. It drinks very delicately, and at 86-proof, it drinks extremely easy. If not neat, I would drink it in a simple Old Fashioned or a Manhattan with a lighter style vermouth, like Dolin Rouge.

Jensen: I agree. I love it neat. I think it’s really deep and complex due to the blend of barrel finishes that add a nice roundness to the spicy rye character. Drink it with friends and family this winter!

Cheers!: What is the best way for local whiskey fans to enjoy Bottleside?*

Siglin: They can pick up bottles at Bottlecraft Little Italy, Bottlecraft North Park, or Fernside. We are currently serving pours of it at Fernside if you want to have a dram or a taste before you buy.  

 *Bottlecraft does have a North County location in Oceanside, but they do not currently have a liquor license that allows for the sale of spirits at that location.

Cheers!: Anything else you’d like to share about Bottlecraft, this collaboration, or others?

Siglin: We have our second barrel coming out soon called “FernCraft.” That will be a 10-year WhistlePig bottled at cask strength. And we’re hoping to [host] a spirited dinner to help launch the two barrels as well.

WhistlePig Bottleside Bespoke Blend:
Price: $150
Age: 12-year-old Canadian rye whisky
Mash Bill: 94% rye and 6% barley
Strength: 86 proof, 43% Alcohol by volume
Total yield (limited): 132 bottles
Available at: Fernside, Bottlecraft North Park and Bottlecraft Little Italy (coming soon to Bottlecraft Liberty Station)

Tasting Notes:
The nose: Honeysuckle, citrus, a hint of spice
The palate: Light and delicate with notes of orange, spice, a hint of raisin, a long finish,

Don’t forget to follow Cheers! North County on Instagram. Got an interesting story about your drinking adventures? Reach out! I want to hear it.