Monongahela Rye and the Whiskey Rebellion
American whiskey was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Throughout the 1700 and 1800s, Western Pennsylvania was the epicenter of American Whiskey production. Wigle is named for one of those pioneering Pennsylvania distillers. Wigle was a good-natured man who was sentenced to hang for his unsinkable love of whiskey. In 1794, Phillip Wigle defended his right to distill in a tussle with a tax collector. He unwittingly helped spark the Whiskey Rebellion, which pitted Western Pennsylvania distillers against George Washington's troops.
After the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, Pittsburgh continued to make the country's whiskey. By 1808, Allegheny County was producing half a barrel of whiskey for every man, woman and child living in America. At this time, the gold standard of American whiskey was a spicy, earthy Rye Whiskey called Monongahela Rye. At the height of Whiskey making in Western Pennsylvania, there were 4,000 documented stills. Today, Wigle Whiskey is the only whiskey distillery in the region and was the first distillery in the City of Pittsburgh since Prohibition.
Bringing Whiskey Home
Wigle Whiskey is working to restore a Pennsylvania tradition championed by these rebellious distillers. We make spirits much the same way Wigle and his friends did when Pittsburgh was the center of American Whiskey – with a copper pot and local ingredients.
A Family's Lark
Wigle is a family owned and operated lark. The distillery became operational in December of 2011 and opened to the public in March 2012 after two years of lobbying to change the state laws to allow for an on-premise model of craft distillery to exist in Pennsylvania. In 2015 & 2016, Wigle was the most awarded craft whiskey distillery in the US by the American Craft Spirits Association and has won Best in Category Craft Rye Whiskey (2015), Best in Category Wheat Whiskey (2016), and Best in Category Genever (2016), in the same double-blind competition of hundreds of whiskeys from around the country. Wigle devotes an enormous amount of resources to innovation and makes each of its dozens of spirits, including Whiskeys, Gins, Honey Spirits and Bitters, grain-to-bottle from local, organic ingredients. Wigle never, ever purchases spirits from bulk suppliers.
Check out this video about Wigle from shortly after we opened in 2012! And come learn about Pittsburgh's rebellious whiskey history on one of our tours (as well as how America became a nation of corn drinkers.)
A note on pronunciation:
We pronounce Wigle like the word "wiggle," because it rolls off the tongue nice and easy. When Wigle was alive, he likely would have pronounced his name with a "V" and hard "i" sound and with a German accent. We've met and shared drinks with many on the Wigle family tree from all over the world and understand that Wigle has been pronounced at least three different ways throughout history (and spelled even more ways), including the way we say our Distillery's name. No matter how you're saying the name of our whiskey, we're glad you're talking about it and hope even more so that you're enjoying drinking it.
How it all got started...
Wigle Whiskey was a wine-induced brainstorm brought on during a family vacation to the Shaw Festival at Niagara on the Lake in May of 2010. Lovers of whiskey, Meredith and Alex suggested a family distillery back home in Pittsburgh. By the time we crossed the border back to the States, we had committed to bringing Whiskey back to its rightful home--Pittsburgh. From the car, we called Eric, who was wrapping up a fellowship out west, and asked him to come home to Pittsburgh to work on the start up. The next week Mary Ellen found our space in the Strip District, we began distilling in 2011 and the rest is history! As a family-owned and operated small business, we are committed to being a positive part of Pittsburgh's fabric.