Philip Wigle (a.k.a. Vigol) was one of the first heroes of Pennsylvania’s storied “Monongahela rye,” a convicted instigator in the Whiskey Rebellion sentenced to hang, then pardoned by a reluctant George Washington. It’s only fitting that one of the new distilleries now reviving Pennsylvania’s rightful place as a rye capital should be named in his honor.
Wigle Whiskey, opened just two months ago with a visitor-friendly distillery in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, is a family affair — retired lawyer Mark Meyer running the still with son Eric, daughter Meredith Grelli doing marketing, and mother Mary Ellen Meyer spiking the marshmallow treats with booze for her signature “Wigle Krispies.” Half of the 500 bottles made each month are set aside for barrel aging. But the other half is bottled “white” for sale fresh, and surprisingly sippable off the still — a full-bodied wheat spirit that smells like a bowl of Grape Nuts and pears; and a spicier white rye that also smells vaguely of chocolate-dipped cherries. They’re suave enough to drink neat. But try the rye in a white Sazerac, or blend the wheat into what Jessica Keyser, of Pittsburgh’s Union Pig and Chicken, calls a Gingham. Blend 2 ounces of Wigle wheat with half an ounce of Campari, 2 ouncesof lemonade, and 2 ounces of peach juice. Shake well with ice, strain into tumblers, and let Pennsylvania’s new Whiskey Rebellion begin.