Wigle Whiskey is growing ... again. With an expanding team of employees and staff, as well as a continuing parade of new products — including an aged ginever, various whiskeys and some soon-to-be-announced releases — the owners decided they'd outgrown the distillery's Smallman Street home. And a new north-of-the-rivers facility, Wigle's Whiskey Garden and Barrelhouse, is now open for tours and tastings.
"We just ran out of room. Everyone is climbing over stuff at this point," says Meredith Grelli, one of the distillery's founders.
Wigle has spent the past few months remodeling a 5,000-square-foot warehouse — the former home of Balistreri Produce — into a spirits destination. The distillers will move most of the company's barrels to the new location. There, deep inside what used to be a produce locker, gargantuan cognac barrels will house a whiskey that will age "for decades," Grelli says.
Grelli says that Wigle's tour guides will use the new site to offer a "dramatic sequel" to the original Wigle story. Here, visitors will learn about the craft and science of aging spirits: Guides will, for example, blow a cascade of soap bubbles through a piece of red oak, demonstrating why its non-porous white oak cousin makes a superior aging vessel.
A counterpoint to the science on the tour is the post-Whiskey Rebellion history of local distilling, during which guests learn how iconic Pittsburgh families, like the Fricks, built their fortunes while changing the way American consumed whiskey.
"It's a lot nerdier than the other tour," Grelli says.
Wes Shonk (formerly of Butcher and the Rye and 1947 Tavern) will run the tasting room. He'll have a mix of barrel-aged cocktails, specials and punches on offer: The room is open Thursday and Friday evenings plus Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Finally, there's the Whiskey Garden, an outdoor event space bordered by plants including apple trees, lavender bushes, iris flowers, and rye and wheat grasses.
"Everything we're planting," Grelli says, "is used in one of our spirits."