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Bhakta took in Mortimer and Mauve, WhistlePig’s blonde and brindle mascots, about a year ago after the kunekunes were flown into California from New Zealand. Known to be friendly and attention-loving, they enjoy the occasional visit to Manhattan but are usually kept on his whiskey farm in Vermont.
“We’re going to make them celebrity pigs for the brand,” said Bhakta. “A lot of whiskey companies are very stodgy and old-fashioned, and we want to have fun with it.”
Bhakta founded his 100-proof whiskey company in 2007 after a variety of other jobs and aspirations. From investment banking to a California Internet startup to a spot on “The Apprentice” to a run for Congress, Bhakta finally settled into the whiskey business and bought his Vermont acres. The grains are all organically grown and the entire process is carried out on the WhistlePig Farm.
“We’ve got the highest-rated American whiskey and we compete with higher-end scotches,” Bhakta said.
And what goes better with top-brand whiskey than a pair of adorable hogs?
“My pigs are very charismatic and have big personalities,” he said. “Mortimer is more laid-back, and Mauve can be high-strung. But they both love attention.”
“M&M” have made several dramatic appearances in New York City, walking the red carpet at Lincoln Center, greeting actor Orlando Bloom on a casual stroll in the Village, and supporting the Occupy Wall Street protesters at Zuccotti Park in bankers’ outfits.
“Even my pigs were offended at the greed on Wall St.,” said Bhakta. “We got a very mixed reaction. I think the Zuccotti protesters were confused about whether or not we were calling them pigs or the bankers pigs.
“I do it mostly for fun,” the whiskey maker continued. “The common response I get from a New Yorker is, ‘And I thought I had seen it all.’ ”
According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygeine, it is legal to keep pigs, hens and horses in New York City, but not snakes.
There are several Village spots where locals can enjoy this perfectly balanced sweet and dry whiskey. The Standard Grill, Buvette, Tipsy Parson and Gusto Ristorante all serve the rye whiskey.
“As our whiskey supplies grow, we’ll expand,” Bhakta said. For now, he said, he’ll stick to raising his two little piglets, plus a dog, Bourbon.
“A lot of training goes into having pigs,” he said, adding, “Two’s company, three’s a crowd.”