Raising Spirits at WhistlePig
It’s a funny thing trying to capture authentic stories about the people, places, and passions we care about—all while showcasing the gear and apparel we’re most proud of for an upcoming season. Given lead times for printing our catalogs, we have to shoot photography months in advance of mailing dates. As a result, the weather doesn’t match the projected season. This dissonance is stark when shooting our Holiday books, which happens in July and early August—not known for bare trees, snowy fields, or windblown riverbanks requiring cold weather gear.
Lots of brands go to South America to shoot in “their winter,” or they go to glaciers in the Pacific Northwest and hope for sun. We’ve experimented with these alternatives in the past, but they never felt quite right—not authentic to us, not representative of what we care about most, which is developing relationships with people who share our love of fly fishing, hunting, dogs, off-the-beaten-path travel, and celebrating these passions with great food & warm campfires.
So, this year, we didn’t fake the experience. Instead, we accepted a kind invitation from our friends at WhistlePig Whiskey to visit their property, where they’ve been transforming a 150-year old dairy into a grain-to-glass distillery—that and leading the rye-whiskey renaissance by producing and blending some of the best rye since Prohibition. We wanted to celebrate the upcoming season with them and some talented friends of Orvis, who traveled from Montana to help us put on a meal none of us will forget.
Cresting a hill overlooking the Lemon Fair River in Shoreham, VT, the farm is 500 acres of rye grain, fallow fields, sugar maples and oak trees that are cut down for aging barrels. The sugar maples are tapped every year for WhistlePig’s signature maple syrup aged in retired whiskey barrels. The rye is harvested, fermented, and distilled on-site, and bottled for their “Farmstock” whiskey. It’s also used in some of the specially finished blends that have been winning major awards for the last decade or so.
Co-founded by the late great Dave Pickerell, a legendary master distiller credited with the success of Maker’s Mark, WhistlePig uses their foundation in traditional craft to innovate into the future with blending and finishing techniques that bring amazing flavor and complexity to a liquor historically thought of as harsh and unrefined. What we also love about WhistlePig is their dedication to improving their land from practicing free-range animal husbandry & crop rotation to preserving water quality in the stream-shed. They filter wastewater from the distilling process through digesters that clean and cool the water before it’s absorbed into the ground. Finally, left-over grain mash is either composted on the farm or given to nearby farmers to help feed their stock.
The party, made up of Orvis folks, the team at WhistlePig, and some guest-star chefs and outdoors-people we’ve become friends with over the years, got together for a couple days of photography, food prep, fishing, and one beautiful night of feasting and toasting around the table and the fire. We hope the spirit of the coming season brings as much joy to your life as it does to ours. Here’s to ending the year with good friends, our dogs, amazing food, tasty drinks, and a big dose of generosity.