Welcome to the Straightbourbon.com Forums.
Page 1 of 4 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 32
  1. #1
    Advanced Taster
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Berkeley, CA
    Posts
    137

    Old Potrero Single Malt Spirit

    This is my first attempt at tasting notes, so forgive the simplicity. I didn't see a review of this anywhere else on the site, though it has been mentioned once or twice before. I bought a mini for about 7 dollars, not wanting to invest too much in this particular spirit (not really a whiskey). This one helped me understand the effects of the wood on the spirit, as the differences between this and any rye I've had are quite apparent.
    -----------------------------------------
    Old Potrero Single Malt Spirit- Anchor Distilling Company, San Francisco
    124.2% abv
    100% rye malt
    "Aged 2 years in new and used uncharred oak barrels"

    Color: Very pale yellow, almost like white grape juice. Not surprising given the age.

    Nose: Neat-Dominated by alcohol, though strong cinnamon notes come through, as well as a distinct floral tone. Cutting it with a little water tones down the cinnamon, and brings out the floral notes a bit more. Just a touch of leather.

    Taste: Neat- The cinnamon makes it through, with some sweetness. Not much complexity. Cut with water: Fruity, somewhat spicy. The rye sweetness is present, seemingly untempered by the wood. Actually somewhat reminiscent of low-end non-peated scotch, in a way that I'm not fond of- raw grain flavors, and alcohol burn.

    Finish: Rough, strong alcohol finish, with a bit of a sour lingering flavor.

    Overall: I'm glad I tried this one, and glad I only bought a mini. It's definitely worth trying for the experience, but it's a rough, raw, spirit. If this is typical of early American spirits, then I very much understand the evolution of the cocktail. I got pretty good pictures of the bottle before I drank it- those are posted below.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    -Sam

  2. #2
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,087
    The Potrero whiskey almost certainly duplicates a lot of straight whiskey made from rye as sold in the early and mid-1800's. In those years, the pot still had hegemony and aging was minimal. The use of the new charred barrel was not invariable. Even the ubiquitous charcoal vat leaching, famously extant only in the Jack Daniels operation, would have moderated but not neutralised the strong flavor of young rye whiskey. Rye whiskey in particular can be very pungent, as we see even from modern examples of double-distilled, four year old rye aged in new-charred wood. These whiskeys too were distilled and entered at higher proofs than would have been common in the early 1800's.

    What this shows is why rectification was so important then. The continuous still, lauded in its early form by Samuel M'Harry in 1810 and by F.X. Byrn writing on distilling 50 years later, offered the possibility economically to make a clean-tasting spirit. It is interesting to speculate whether high proof spirits would have become popular (in the form of whiskey blends, and vodka today) had lengthy all-new charred barrel aging been the norm in, say, 1840. But it wasn't. Systematic aging in new wood of bourbon and rye was just getting going and only by the later 1800's were warehouses being purpose-built to hold new spirit in cask for years to moderate its harshness. By then, the adding of neutral spirit to whiskey (or rather the reverse) became the norm. In Canada the parallel development of column-stilled high proof Canadian whisky ensured the disappearance of straight whiskey in this country. Perhaps due to climate, or regional taste, or just conservatism, the U.S. in certain regions held on to low proof whiskey but one thing is clear to me, had long aging in new charred oak not developed, the old low-proof young whiskeys would have withered. Given a choice between a 1-2 year old low-proof rye- or corn-based whiskey and blended whiskey the latter would have won without contest. Only when people saw that 4-8 year old straight whiskey was a palatable, distinctive beverage was the survival of straight whiskey (setting aside the challenges of Prohibition and the tax maw) assured.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 07-03-2006 at 08:32.

  3. #3
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,605
    While everything Gary says is correct, Fritz Maytag's contention that he is making an authentic 18th century whiskey is mostly a product of Fritz's imagination.

    In particular, I have seen no evidence to suggest that 18th century distillers were routinely or primarily using a mash of 100% malted rye. The evidence from Washington's distillery, for example, is that they were using a mash pretty similar to a modern rye whiskey mash, consisting of a small amount of malted barley, a quantity of unmalted corn, and the largest portion being unmalted rye.

  4. #4
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,087
    Chuck, I agree with you, and in fact there is evidence to suggest all-malted rye whiskey was a late 1800's industrial development (there was a keynote brand called Montreal Malted Rye). But I think using all-malted rye is just a short cut and would lead more or less to the palate obtained when using a mix of unmalted rye and barley malt or unmalted rye and malted rye. This is especially when so when considering that the whiskeys in question were consumed quite young when the finer taste points that might emerge with aging were not appreciated, generally. Malted rye was certainly understood in the era you are referring to, M'Harry gives specific instructions on how to malt rye, for example. It is known too the process is tricky to accomplish, so probably the use of all-rye mashes had to await more sophisticated, industrial techniques which were not developed until the end of the 1800's. Certainly Maytag's rye whiskey is not the only type of rye whiskey made in the era in question but it falls within the parameters, IMO.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 07-06-2006 at 16:03.

  5. #5
    Novice
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Sweet Home Connecticut
    Posts
    12
    I was surprised when I found a bottle of this at a liquor store around the corner here in CT. I wish they had a mini, because I would like to try it. But it seems to me that asking nearly $70 for what appears to be a history lesson (especially an inaccurate one) is way too steep. I'm not seeing many positive reviews of this from people who actually like this whiskey for what it is. If anything, it seems people appreciate it for what it's about.

    Pete

  6. #6
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,087
    It is sold in minis (hard to find) and if it was me buying it today, I would look for it in that form. It is a whiskey that has a unique taste and not one I can warm to. I find the historical angle of interest but not everyone may, of course. On the point of rye malt, I think it is reasonable to think some rye whiskey was made from all-malted rye "back when". Not methodically or even typically, probably, but some was. In M'Harry , section XIII, Article 1, is entitled, "To make rye malt for stilling". The comments call for steeping rye for 24 hours or 48 hours, and ultimately kilning it. However in his main recipes (e.g., half rye, half corn, 2/3rds corn, 1/3rd rye, etc.) he calls for rye and malted barley. Evidently the rye here is unmalted. We should remember that malting grains is a short-cut, mashing occurs faster and more completely when grains are malted (generally). So I infer when people had the time and ability to mash their rye (or even corn) they did so, possibly when barley was dear or unavailable for malting. Again I don't say the Potrero type rye was typical of what was made then but I feel it was in the ballpark.

    Gary

  7. #7
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,605
    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman
    On the point of rye malt, I think it is reasonable to think some rye whiskey was made from all-malted rye "back when". Not methodically or even typically, probably, but some was.
    That is not an unreasonable statement. Why I think it preposterous to claim that the "typical" 18th century whiskey was 100% malted rye, as Maytag does, is because:

    1. There is zero supporting evidence for the claim.

    2. Malting any grain is difficult and malting rye is trickier than most.

    3. Malted barley was readily available anywhere beer was made, which was just about everywhere, except on the most remote frontier.

  8. #8
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,087
    In terms of 1800's authenticity, a lot of whiskey then was, right after stilling, leached through layers of charcoal or similar materials. M'Harry advises this constantly in the book. I'd like to know what Potrero would taste like if it had undergone that treatment before barreling (I assume it did not although I don't know for sure). At the same time, M'Harry's continual advising to use the process reveals its use was far from invariable. When M'Harry talks about the "whiskey taste" and (often) the need to eliminate or modify it, I think he is referring to some whiskey which could have tasted like Potrero does. Some of his rye whiskey may have tasted like a young, more commercial rye whiskey of today, say like Jim Beam Rye. Maybe some tasted like a young Woodford Reserve. More research needs to be done in other distilling texts and other sources of the day to get a rounder picture. The surviving George Washington distillery records disclosed production of many types of whiskey, of which, i) a small portion was aged (probably 1-2 years, and likely was an early form of straight rye), ii) a small amount again was refined numerous times and probably sold young as an early form of vodka or the now defunct light whiskey, and iii) some of which was flavoured, e.g., with cinammon. Flavored schapps isn't new. The rest was common rye whiskey, sold off the still or fairly quickly. It may have tasted like Isahia Morgan Rye Whiskey, which is very good and has a pleasing "juicy fruit" quality; I don't know though if Geo. Washington's whiskey or the Isahia Morgan underwent charcoal filtration.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 07-07-2006 at 06:49.

  9. #9
    Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    295
    Quote Originally Posted by Gillman
    ...I think using all-malted rye is just a short cut and would lead more or less to the palate obtained when using a mix of unmalted rye and barley malt or unmalted rye and malted rye.
    I respectfully disagree. In my experience malted and unmalted versions of the same grain are very different when it comes to their effect on the flavor of a spirit. Malted rye has a very distinct flavor, instantly observable in Old Potrero and Lot 40, which is nothing like straight rye made with unmalted rye, just as unmalted barley adds a very distinct flavor to Irish whiskey, clearly different from the flavor of all-malted-barley Scotch.

    A book about moonshining I read once included a recipe that started with malting a bag of corn. That would have produced a spirit nothing like the corn whiskey we know! I would love to taste a whiskey made with malted corn, or malted wheat for that matter. The latter is certainly readily available due to its common use in brewing beer.

  10. #10
    Bourbonian of the Year 2011
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    9,087
    Chuck, it's not easy to do the comparison you mention. Lot 40 is (my understanding) a combination of malted and unmalted rye. Generally, the malted component would be less than the other. Still though, as you say there is a resemblance to Old Potrero. The comparison with, say, any of the other rye whiskeys out in the market, which all use (I believe) unmalted rye (say, Old Overholt), is hard to make because they are partly corn. There is no recipe I know of in the market that uses, say, 20% barley malt and 80% unmalted rye which is a traditional recipe for rye whiskey (see Byrn on this and Fortune Magazine's 1933 article on the looming end of Prohibition). When you add unmalted grain to the malted in the mash, the unmalted gets malted. Yes, it is "different" because not kilned but it is in the ballpark of rye whiskey flavours IMO. I did say, too, "more or less..". As for Irish whiskey, there does seem a "pot still" taste that comes from unmalted grains. But I am not sure about this. We see it even after 3 distillations to a high proof. It might result from other factors, added to which, Bushmills single malt, which has no unmalted grains in it, tastes notably quite "Irish"! It might have something to do with the stills there, or the kinds of barley used, or even the yeasts. I just don't know. But M'Harry talks about raw rye and malted indifferently. He does state that corn makes as "good" a whiskey as rye, so he was conscious of taste difference to a degree. Yet he never suggests that the use of malted rye would produce a worse whiskey than using unmalted or vice versa. I understand what you are suggesting but I'm just not sure the case exists to say the tastes from using one or the other are that different all things being equal.

    Gary
    Last edited by Gillman; 07-07-2006 at 08:31.

 

 

Similar Threads

  1. Michael Collins Single Malt Irish Whiskey
    By Gillman in forum Foreign Whiskey
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 10-14-2006, 10:55
  2. Wasmund's Single Malt Whisky
    By Virginia Gentleman in forum Other American Whiskey
    Replies: 9
    Last Post: 09-06-2006, 17:02
  3. Coming not so soon- Nashoba "Single-Malt" Whiskey
    By pbrian in forum Other American Whiskey
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 01-19-2006, 16:13
  4. McCarthy's Oregon Single-Malt Whiskey
    By T47 in forum Other American Whiskey
    Replies: 13
    Last Post: 01-10-2006, 15:05
  5. bourbon versus single malt scotch differences
    By racer in forum Foreign Whiskey
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 01-19-2003, 21:20

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Back to top