I managed to make it through Malt Advocate's Whisk(e)y Fest.
I met (briefly) Julian van Winkle, and Sally Van Winkle Campbell.
Sally was really turning on the charm.
I also met Fritz Maytag, who was trashed, but gave a nice seminar
on his Old Portero anyhow. He answered a few of my questions, and
dodged others gracefully.
The seminar was a slideshow that he narrarated, along with tasting
of 6 little bottles that had been set in front of us:
1) Old Portero distilled once
2) Old Portero distilled a few times
3) Old Portero distilled a few times and aged in "toasted" barrels ~3 years
4) Old Portero distilled a few times and aged in "charred" barrels ~3 years
5) Old Portero distilled a few times and turned into gin (yes, gin!)
6) Water, because all of the above were uncut.
(I might be wrong about the ~3 years... one is definitely ~3 years, the other
might not be. These that are ages are from the same stock as what is on
the market now.)
They get their barrels from wine barrel coopers, and then they
toast or char them over an open fire themselves. The barrels that
are being charred spit out flames 30 feet high. That's "thirty feet".
Upon prodding, he said that they use Ale yeast from the brewery.
Tasting notes, covering 1,2,and 3:
Nose: fairly nice. Exactly like the palatte.
Palatte: A little like plum, lots of mushrooms and Rice Krispies at first.
Almost orange, but not quite. Very grainy. A real depth and complexity in
the grain overwhelmes the senses. The plummy notes are perhaps a little
sour... much like a moonshine I once had. Come to think of it, the grain
tastes a little like graham crackers, except not as sweet.
Finish: Medium length. Acceptable.
Afterglow: where were the bass notes? Where did all that complexity come
from? Complexity usually comes from the bass notes (e.g. the chocolate
in the Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13... or in Wild Turkey Rare Breed).
But wow! Complexity in the middle notes! Unheard of in my book!
It's supposed to be a "founding fathers" style rye, and it's done a good
job achieving that. The taste is definitely unique. Would I use this
as a celebration drink? No. Would I pay $100 for it? No. Would I
pay $30 for it? Yes. Will it ever be really popular? No. Will bourbon
drinkers who live for the Big Taste like it? No. Will people who adore
Jefferson's Reserve (myself included) like it? Yes indeed.
Notes for #4,#5:
Okay, just for fun you can try to turn Old Portero into something
more like bourbon, or more like gin. It works okay. But it's
destiny lies in the "toasted" barrels version.
Final note: I think that if Fritz Maytag maintains intrest in distilling,
then he's going to come up with some great stuff. The first offerings
are good, but I don't think they'll ever be anyone's favorite. This is
definitely something unlike any rye, bourbon, scotch, or canadian I've