Who knew a wonderful world of whiskey was waiting to be discovered in the heart of Pittsburgh at the Wigle (pronounced “wiggle”) Distillery? I was definitely surprised.
Wigle distillery, established in 2011 in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, creates dozens of spirits, whiskeys, gins and honey spirits. The small facility gives them the flexibility to experiment and use only the best local and organic ingredients. We were told on our tour they don’t use organic ingredients because it’s trendy, but because science has proven that organic barley, rye and corn make the best spirits.
The roots of Western Pennsylvania distilling date back to the 1700s. It’s considered the birthplace of American whiskey.
“Western Pennsylvania,” our tour guide told us “was Kentucky before Kentucky existed.”
Wigle, the man (this time pronounced “Vy-gle” due to his German roots), was one of the leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794 when the western Pennsylvania distillers resisted attempts by the newly formed national government to tax their products. The rebellion was quickly and nearly bloodlessly put down when the sitting president of the United States George Washington led an army into western Pennsylvania and arrested Wigle. Wigle was then taken to Philadelphia and pardoned by Washington as he approached the gallows because Washington didn’t want to create a martyr.
Sipping on cocktails included in the $20 ticket price, we were given a tour of the operation by a fantastic, energetic tour guide named Greg. He told us the parallel stories of the process to distill whiskey and the history of distilling in the Americas. The tour was also filled with samples of various kinds of spirits, along with sniffs and tastes of the various products in the different stages of the process. I swear the one of them smelled just like my mother’s cookies.
The final stop was a tasting of a flight of distilled whiskey. I will admit to only sniffing my flight since the various tasting stops left me with a little buzz. If you like your liquor this is a wonderful stop on any trip, though I do recommend getting a ride or bring a driver, because if you want to enjoy it to your tour to the fullest you will need a safe ride home.