Whiskey and pork naturally complement each other. If you've ever sipped some smoky, bacon-infused whiskey, you understand. But the team at Templeton Rye Distillery is looking to combine the two flavors in a new way.
The Iowa-based company has started the Heritage Pork Project. It has arranged for 25 Duroc pigs to be raised on a farm near the distillery and fed a diet that includes spent grain mash from the production of the rye whiskey in the hopes it will affect the pigs' flavor.
Templeton President Scott Bush and members of his team came up with the idea for the project during a night spent drinking Templeton.
"It's an interesting culmination of a lot of different pieces of our world," said Bush, who participates in various food and wine festivals, including Cochon 555, Food & Wine Classic in Aspen and the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival. "Also we thought it was a way to reach out to folks who appreciate high-end food and drink but really are more into wine, and haven't quite crossed into spirits yet."
The pigs are being raised in an open pen by an Iowa breeder and being fed a special diet designed by swine nutrition specialist Dr. Mark Bertram that incorporates the spent mash.
"The spent mash smells just wonderful, like rye and a little bit like whiskey," said Bush. "Is it going to impact the flavor of the pig? Certainly we hope so. Like whiskey? That’s a stretch, but it will be interesting for folks to pair one of these pigs with our whiskey, which basically includes the same grains."
Bush hasn't decided what he'll do with all of the porkers, but he plans to sell some of the whole, slaughtered pigs -- they weigh about 210 pounds each -- for about $700 by the end of June or early July, plus a shipping charge. He's received about 100 inquiries for the pigs and will sort through each one to choose the recipients. Those interested can visit www.templetonryeporkproject.com for details about how to email a request for a pig.
Bush wants to partner with high-end chefs who may prepare one of the pigs as a weekend special and pair it with some Templeton cocktails but says he's still figuring out how he wants to handle all the pigs.
"We're dealing with some logistical challenges ... we’re not delivering a pack of gum here," said Bush.
With all the inquiries he's received, Bush isn't ruling out the possibility of some bacon-infused Templeton products in the future.
"We are whiskey makers, first and foremost, so we're not really looking to become pig farmers, but doing something that folks are really excited about is certainly good for our brand."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times