Watch Meredith Meyer Grelli give us the 101 on whiskey in the first Brazen Kitchen Short Order Short
I first posted about Wigle Whiskey over a year ago before they officially opened. The stills weren’t even delivered yet but Eric Meyer gave me a tour and described the vision. I was sold. I was happy. It made my day. Fast forward one year later and I meet Eric’s amazing sister, Meredith. We came to what we are both doing now in the food world through an uncannily parallel route — product management (she, Heinz, me Colgate-Palmolive), public and urban policy work, then food studies. Strange, but really they are all connected — especially once you realize that our whiskey heritage (food + product management) was taken from us by Thomas Jefferson’s farm bill (public policy). See?
One year after my first dusty tour of Wigle, the local distillery is up and already a bronze winner at the 2012 Washington Cup Spirits Competition. George Washington, by the way, was one of the largest whiskey producers in the south during his time. After the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 (led by whiskey makers in Western Pennsylvania, protesting a tax levied on their spirits), Washington introduced incentives what would turn out to be the precursor to said Thomas Jefferson “farm bill.” Thomas Jefferson basically tipped the whiskey scale by offering 60 acres of land in Kentucky to anyone willing to produce the native crop, which was corn. Many distillers took the deal and switched their grain from rye to corn, creating the bourbon boom — and in the process, relegating rye to second string.
Before these incentives, Western Pennsylvania used to be the Whiskey Capital of the United States as the Scotch-Irish settlers established distilleries that represented one quarter of all the distilleries in the country. They produced stellar rye whiskey! At its peak, Pennsylvania had about 4000 distilleries in the region — today we have 3.
But no more! Wigle Whiskey (named after one of the Whiskey Rebels) is leading the way. We here in Pittsburgh are the privileged few who can enjoy truly local whiskey, made right in the Strip District! This is definitely something worth raising a highball to. In fact, I’m so proud that we have such an intrepid claim to modern whiskey fame that I brag about it to the world in MSN’s Re:Discover travel feature on Pittsburgh.
While craft distilling is in its infancy, it may well be following the rise of craft breweries (which, at almost 2,000 brewers, now represents over 5 percent of beer sold in the U.S. – in the beer world, we have just gotten back to the number of breweries pre-Prohibition. More on that later.) Founded by the Meyer family, Wigle Whiskey is not only one of the few craft whiskey distilleries in the U.S. but one of a literal handful of whiskey distillers who (1) make whiskey truly from scratch – i.e. the grain (2) using only organic grains (3) that are sourced locally. Alice Waters would be drinking Wigle Whiskey if it was made in California, let me tell you.
I love whiskey. Ever since my friend Tony hosted a whiskey tasting and ever since Salt started making some magical concoctions, I was hooked. Other spirits can bite the dust. I even love modern moonshine – or “white whiskey” in its trendy incarnation. Whiskey fresh off the still, unaged.
so, women, let’s lay off the Cosmopolitan for a bit (Sex and The City went off the air 10 years ago right?) and show those mad men that whiskey is for women too.
*A version article originally appeared on Pittsburgh Magazine.