women in whiskey
Covering both the science of distilling and the history of women in whiskey is less like a boring lesson and more like a great conversation over whiskey.
Ingrid Shawn Rodriguez: WhistlePig Whiskey
New York City is known for being the place where people go to pursue their dreams. Ingrid Shawn Rodriguez pursued hers by leaving New York City, ending up as the most Senior Steward for WhistlePig Whiskey.
In Pursuit of Passion
A native New Yorker, Ingrid’s youth was spent in New York City and the Peekskill area, near West Point. She describes her career as a series of “left non-lateral moves”. While earning an industrial engineering degree from Columbia University, Ingrid worked in hospitality, from hostessing to bartending. Then, she headed the finances for Belle Fleur, a high end florist, as their Controller. Tired of New York winters and a Yankee fan, she moved to Tampa Bay, Florida. Ingrid became a certified contractor and became the Chief Financial Officer of a construction restoration company.
As a young woman in the mostly male environments of engineering and construction (women make up 14% and 10% of the workforce, respectively), Ingrid remarked that drinking whiskey helped her to “fit in”. While she enjoyed the camaraderie with her co-workers, Ingrid realized she wanted to learn more about whiskey in general.
Ingrid started with Irish whiskey (Jameson was her go-to along with a pint of Guinness) before moving to bourbons. She went through an overproof whiskey phase (“the Bakers and Bookers”) before realizing that it wasn’t a higher proof she craved but a less sweet flavor profile. This kicked off her journey into the world of rye, leading her to WhistlePig.
Payroll by the [Fire] Pit
Ingrid joined the Tampa Bay chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild, known to industry as “USBG”, filling their need for a Treasurer with her skills from Corporate America. A professional hospitality association committed to “uniting the hospitality community to advance professional bartending”, USBG offers memberships to both industry and enthusiasts, providing educational workshops, networking, and events. Ingrid was elected to Chapter President and became “Chair Extraordinaire” of their signature Repeal Day event, transforming it from 300 people partying to a 5-day Tampa Bay Repeal Day Conference (with partying) of 800+ attendees.
Ingrid applied to Camp Runamok and was accepted. This week long intense adult summer camp (accepting only about 15% of 1,000+ applicants) mixes hands-on education at Kentucky distilleries and fun teambuilding activities that create lifelong friendships. She was their oldest camper and using vacation time, did “payroll by the fire pit at night”. There she met the late Dave Pickerell, Master Distiller for WhistlePig Whiskey. He had graduated from West Point and had a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville. They hit it off immediately. Ingrid craved a new professional challenge and Dave asked if she wanted to work for WhistlePig.
Ingrid kept her day job and came onboard part-time. As she was coached on sales and distribution, Dave mentored her on whiskey and developing her palate.
As a home chef, Ingrid’s palate had a good foundation, and as they started drinking “off brand” (i.e. not WhistlePig whiskey), Dave found out she didn’t like peaty Scotch. He immediately picked up a bottle of Octomore to “blow out” her palate for a deconstruction to figure out exactly what she didn’t like. Initially she was a bit skeptical of this “reverse tasting”, but admitted that working backward trained her to pick out specific flavor nuances.
Ingrid’s experiences makes her relatable to bartenders and whiskey enthusiasts from different backgrounds. Whiskey taste talk with Ingrid is less of a lecture and more of a conversation.
On Water and Ice: “Distillers want you to taste their whiskey neat (room temperature, NOT cold) the first time”. A drop or two can out bring out flavors. (Ingrid favors using an ice chip.)
On Palate Cleansing: ”Sniff your own [unperfumed] skin.” But since we can’t always taste in a vacuum, pairings are important.
Tasting Notes: “It’s important to listen to people as you take them through their own tasting palate; you don’t know what their history or taste bias is until you ask.” (Ingrid herself had an anaphylactic allergy to nuts until she was 35 and had not tasted banana bread.) We chatted about the polarization of cilantro, identifying eucalyptus vs. mint, the popularity of “marzipan”, the overuse of “spicy” for ryes, and differentiating peat smoke vs. campfire smoke.
Proof: “This can trick people into thinking is something is ‘spicy’ when it’s really just a burn.” And not every high proof whiskey “burns” the same.
Cigar Pairings: While the 15 year was created for cigar smokers, at a Davidoff lounge event the cigar blender felt the 12 year was a better match. A comparison of palates then led to the revelation: when pairing, are you a whiskey drinker that likes cigars or a cigar smoker that likes whiskey? In general, Ingrid dislikes whiskey drinking snobbery related to adding ice or using expensive whiskey in cocktails. “Drink your whiskey how you like.”
WhistlePig Whiskey: Just the Juice
While Rye heads may be familiar with WhistlePig, the brand remains a mystery for many whiskey lovers, making it more of a “cult or curiosity” whiskey. Ingrid acknowledges that while media previously focused on the brand’s storied history of legal entanglements and gossip, now people can focus on their “solidly good product”.
Focusing on the juice, Ingrid addressed the three main grievances that she’s seen as a WBSE Member:
Sourcing: After the WhistlePig farm was bought in 2007, Dave Pickerell worked to help source 10 year Monongahela style rye whiskey stock from Alberta, Canada. “While MGP whiskey has been used in the past, today 90% of the base spirit is from Canada to be blended and bottled at their flagship location Shoreham, VT or their satellite (Moriah Business Park in NY).”
Premium Pricing: From $50 for Piggyback 6 to $500 for Boss Hog VII: Magellan’s Atlantic, Ingrid calls WhistlePig “affordable luxury” and stated that its higher than average price point was two-fold: an acknowledgement of what people see as an inherently valuable and designed to discourage the secondary market. “We want people to enjoy the whiskey they buy.”
WhistlePig Taste Profile: I shared WBSE Member Eric Russo’s post that he enjoyed “WhistlePig that doesn’t taste like WhistlePig, Phenomenal stuff”. She pointed out that this is what makes WhistlePig unique. “Unlike other brands, we aren’t held up by one flagship product; our portfolio has a lineup that grows with you and each product has its own mythology and lifecycle.” Official brand specs below.
6 Year - Piggyback
100% Rye; 48.3% ABV (96.56 Proof); new American oak
Nose: Fresh cinnamon, black peppercorn, a hint of tangerine and grapefruit zest
Palate: Powerfully spicy, with cocoa, cardamom and cured leather flavors
Finish: Wonderfully lengthy, with baking spices, vanilla and hints of citrus
90% Rye; 50 ABV% (100 Proof); aged in new American oak, finished in ex-bourbon casks
Nose: Allspice, orange peel, anise, oak, char and caramel
Palate: Sweet; hints of caramel and vanilla, followed by ryespice and mint
Finish: Long finish; warm butterscotch and caramel
12 Year - Old World Cask Finish
90% Rye; 43% ABV (86 Proof); new American Oak, finished in Madeira (63%), Sauternes (30%) and Port (7%) casks
Nose: Caramel, vanilla, and winter fruit
Palate: Rye spice, apricots, plums, raisins, dates, and honey
Finish: Dark chocolate, winter fruit, caramel, and vanilla
15 Year Estate Oak Rye
100% Rye; 46% ABV (92 Proof); aged in ex-bourbon casks, finished in new Vermont estate oak
Nose: Deep and rich, dominated by caramel, vanilla, and oak with hints of allspice and burnt orange
Palate: Warm, rich, and slightly creamy; Loads of butterscotch and baking spice with leather and a hint of tobacco
Finish: Ultra long and rich, warm, and inviting
18 Year Double Malt Rye
79% Rye, 15% Malted Rye, 6% Malted Barley; 46% ABV (92 Proof);
Nose: Sweet and aromatic, with toasted oak, berries, and nutmeg
Palate: Elegant and spicy, mildly fruity, and pleasantly floral. Vanilla and oak notes appear with time
Finish: Wonderfully long, clean, and spicy finish
FarmStock Rye Crop No. 003
Farmstock is part of their Triple Terroir Whiskey™ – created from their rye grain, distilled and proofed with their water, and aged in our custom Vermont White Oak.
A blend of 52% 3-year-old Vermont Rye whiskey, 31% 6-year aged whisky and 17% 10-year aged whisky from Alberta, Canada. 43% ABV (86 Proof)
Nose: Sweet and aromatic, with Vanilla, Maraschino, Roasted Chestnuts and hints of Cigar Box
Palate: Oak, Toffee and Baking Spices followed by soft notes of Crème Brûlée and Rose Petals
Finish: Warm and lasting with a pleasant Rye Spice
HomeStock No. 004
HomeStock expressions are a crowd sourced blend.
45% Vermont Rye aged in Vermont White Oak, 30% wheat, 25% barley; 43 ABV%, 86 Proof
Wood: Vermont Estate Oak
Nose: Sweet and Fruity with Pipe Tobacco, Vanilla, and Orange Zest
Palate: A big hit of Baking Spices, Toffee, Roasted Nuts and Ripe Berries
Finish: Long-lasting and Spicy
Boss Hog VII: Magellan’s Atlantic
All reiterations are single barrel and bottled at proof.
100% Rye; Barrel Strength, usually between 105.1 and 107.8 proof. Aged 17 years in American oak with two consecutive rounds of finishing – 3 weeks in Spanish Cantabria oak casks followed by 3 days in South American teakwood.
Nose: Intensely aromatic, with cinnamon sugar, allspice, and maple. With time, toasted wood notes arise alongside creamy vanilla, roasted almonds, and a touch of ground espresso.
Palate: Spicy cloves and sweet brandied cherries abound, with baking spices rampant. A closer look reveals subtle hints of charred oak, sage, and dark chocolate.
Finish: Everlasting; gobs of cinnamon, oak spice, and a gentle warmth demand another sip
Can’t decide which one to try?
Ingrid’s Flavor Matrix
Today, Ingrid introduces WhistlePig to people full-time (COVID restricts her to Florida) and remains active with USBG while owning her own construction company as a side hustle. For a cocktail, try their:
1 ½ oz WhistlePig PiggyBack Rye
3/4 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz Campari
Add all ingredients to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir until chilled. Strain into a chilled coupe, and garnish with a lemon peel.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and say hello to Ingrid in our WBSE Facebook Group!