I have before me a bottle of Old Potrero Pot Distilled 18th Century Style Spirit, made from 100% malted rye, and aged in uncharred oak barrels. I have before me a Manhattan that I have just mixed and I am going to give my thoughts about this.
Old Potrero is a spirit I credit as being very educational for me, a novice whisky drinker. I will tell you how I backed into this delightful education.
I had never understood drinking spirits of any kind until one day I went to the liquor store (Beacon Liquors on 76th and Broadway in Manhattan, long may it prosper) and decided I wanted to try a sipping whisky. At this time of my life I was playing a lot of fingerstyle blues on my electric guitars. I thought whisky might rough up my voice enough to sing. But I didn't like Jack Daniels, it was too harsh for me.
I noticed that there was a bottle of "Jack Daniels Single Barrel." Honestly the large wooden cork attracted my attention. Then I read the label and it pointed out that the character of the individual barrel lent uniqueness to the distillate. Long story short, I took a bottle home and was an immediate convert - I must've got a really good barrel!
I branched out next into bourbon; I took home a bottle of Eagle Rare 10 year because the price was right and I liked the Eagle, because I like America and the Eagle is our bird here in the USA.
I was an immediate convert at that time. I noticed that bourbon carried a sweetness very different than the maple flavor of Tennessee whisky. I also noticed that Eagle Rare had a "zing" to it that the JD completely lacked. This "zing" would numb your tongue in higher doses; in lower doses it carried with it a malty flavor.
Well, when I tasted Old Potrero it all became clear. That "zing" must come from what Buffalo Trace assures me is the Minnesota rye, because Old Potrero is pretty much all zing. It's like what cinnamon or cloves do to your tongue, except without any of the holiday flavors/aromas of those spices. On the nose the powerful alcohol carries with it a tequila-like fresh vegetal aroma; I can taste the maltiness on the palate, and the finish is long and even, with what the wine folks call 'wet stone' and 'metallic' flavors.
Well now this is quite delicious, and I am assured that J.P. Morgan might have liked a bit of rye whisky zing to make up his Manhattan. Far more learned posters than I have written here about exactly what J.P. might have tasted, so I will not belabor the point. The next question is which vermouth.
Noilly Prat, whose dry vermouth is unexcelled in the Martini, makes a sweet vermouth that is passable. It contains prominent cloves, cinnamon, cassis, and bitter orange. The finish is sweet and cloying in a way that only too much cinnamon can be. Cinzano brings a distinctly different palette of flavors; I taste star anise and wormwood, the heavy bitterness offset by cane-sugary sweetness.
We take two parts Old Potrero and one part Cinzano and shake over ice made from purified water. The result is poured into a chilled glass. Angostura bitters are omitted. When you have gone to this degree of trouble to select the delicate flavor notes of your preferred ingredients, why mask them with the extraordinarily powerful flavor of gentian?
A Mezetta "maraschino" cherry is added; while its benzaldehyded, metabisulfited, Allura-Reddened corpse is out of place, we have yet to find any alternative. (Recommendations greatly solicited and appreciated.)
The result is greater than the sum of its parts. Sweetness and bitterness in equal measure, with the body and strength of the malt grain as a foundation, and exotic aromatics to be found in every corner of the beverage, from the first sip on the tip of the tongue, to the lurking aftertastes that continue to delight well after the glass is empty.
This is a very good way to take your evening's refreshment. If the gentle reader does not find that I am completely insane, I would welcome his opinions and insight.