The fun-loving and innovative distillers at Wigle Whiskey are bringing the liquid cheer for the holidays with the release of two spirits in December: a grappa and an absinthe. Unlike Wigle’s flagship spirit, whiskey, neither liquor has strong historical ties to Pennsylvania. But each contributes to and explores Pittsburgh’s growing food and beverage industry.
First up, on Dec. 10, is the grappa, Fatto a Mano (“handmade”). Erie’s 6 Mile Cellars provided the pomace of Niagara grapes, similar in flavor and sweetness to the Concord, for the distillation, and Domenic Branduzzi, of Piccolo Forno and Grapperia, bucketed the pomace into the still by hand. Pittsburgh drinkers will find this bracing and slightly sweet liquor on the shelves at Branduzzi’s establishments over the coming months. (For more on grappa, see “Reputed as a drink for tough grandpas, grappa gets a new look at Grapperia,” in the March 25 CP.)
On Dec. 16, after two years of development, comes Absint Minded, Wigle’s first absinthe. In spite of centuries-long rumors, this spirit doesn’t contain enough wormwood to make you hallucinate, but it certainly provides a minty kick. In a process similar to gin-making, only with the prominent flavor being wormwood rather than juniper, this Swiss-style absinthe is distilled from organic wheat with fennel, wormwood, anise, mint and orange. Though often served with a sugar cube or even honey, it was delicious straight. With a little ice, it was even better, turning the pellucid liquor slightly opalescent and cloudy from the “louche” effect, when the essential oils separate from the alcohol.
Lastly, to my great delight, Wigle is offering its whiskey by personal delivery from Santa himself. For $5,000, a distillery Santa (or Hanukah Harry or one of Santa’s elves, your choice) from Santa’s Whiskey Express will deliver a 15-gallon barrel and 80 750 ml bottles filled from it to any Pennsylvania address. Santa will stay to lead a whiskey-tasting, complete with a photo session and, of course, cookies. Folks, this is dedication to holiday spirit.