Whiskey Review Round Up: Old Potrero Cask Finished Straight Malt Whiskey

, | December 3, 2017

While San Francisco, California-based Anchor Distilling Company – among the oldest post-Prohibition craft distillers in the country – founded its Old Potrero brand on the historical mission to “re-create the original whiskey of America,” their two latest expressions indicate that the company isn’t opposed to experimentation.

With its historically minded 18th century whiskey, rye and American single malt already on the market for years, Old Potrero has recently taken a new path in September and launched two very limited-release expressions: a Straight Malt Whiskey Finished in Port Barrels, and a Straight Malt Whiskey Finished in Stout Barrels.

The whiskeys were similar to their 18th Century Style Whiskey, specifically in that all are made with a 100 percent malted rye mash bill and aged primarily new, toasted, extra fine-grain American oak barrels.

The stout casks in particular had an interesting life. Originally used for a straight rye, Anchor founder Fritz Maytag reportedly used them to age apple brandy for a time, then transferred in a stout for about a year (it’s important to note that he also founded Anchor Brewing Company). The latest whiskey was aged in those casks for six months.

The final products both run for about $100 per bottle, but again, you’ll only find them in California.

Tasting Notes: Old Potrero Straight Malt Whiskey Finished in Port Barrels

Vital Stats: 100 percent rye mash aged in new American oak barrels and finished in port casks. No age statement. Bottled 57.3 percent alcohol by volume and sold in 750 milliliter bottles for about $100.

Appearance: A darker than average, reddish-brown amber almost like a red ale.

Nose: A whiff starts out of with a burst of caramel, but the aroma quickly broadens out into a fruit pastry-like bouquet, dominated by an earthier caramel and sweet cooked apples with notes of pear and spices. A few moments later, the aroma took a turn for the worse by developing into an unflattering combination of bitter baking chocolate, port, and a touch of licorice.

Palate: Taking a sip, the Port-finished single malt puts forward a tastier version of what I found distasteful in the nose – dominated by a richer but sweeter chocolate alongside a mellower port with spicy rye notes. As it sits on the tongue, it develops sweeter caramelly notes that are evened out by more pronounced touches of ginger and clove.

That holds firm until swallowing, which brings a slow wave of harshly-spicy rye sweeping from the back of the mouth forward, gradually marching toward every corner of the mouth. Once the wave passes, it leaves a sweet, port-like residue in its wake throughout the mouth.

Tasting Notes: Old Potrero Straight Malt Whiskey Finished in Stout Barrels

Vital Stats: 100 percent rye mash aged in new American oak barrels and finished in stout casks for six months. No age statement. Bottled 55.4 percent alcohol by volume and sold in 750 milliliter bottles for about $100.

Appearance: In the glass, the stout-finished Old Potrero takes a golden amber hue, just a bit lighter than the average whiskey.

Nose: A whiff brings a gentle but firm reminder of the stout barrels this whiskey was finished in, as that whiff brings with it a rich, sweet vanilla with toasted marshmallow notes. That sweet, stout character remains dominant while an undercurrent of yeast and mild rye form beneath it.

Palate: Falls onto the tongue with a rich, vanilla-like sweetness – a bit of marshmallow-loe character, but not as much as in the nose. That sweetness mostly sticks around even as the dram takes on subdued notes of pepper, allspice and rye.

Swallowing again sends a wave of spicy rye forward from the back of the mouth, but this wave is much milder than the port-finished whiskey. Shortly after that spicy wave passes, the whiskey returns to a fairly sweet residue that remains on the tongue with the occasional flare of spicy rye.

The Takeaway

While I have to hand it to the distillers for producing two whiskeys that were imbued with so many aspects of their respective casks’ previous tenants, both fell flat for me. Regarding the port-finished variety, I’m already finicky with fortified wines. While the addition of what seems like a robust port complemented a relatively spicy rye more than I expected, there still were some dissonant notes, particularly in the nose.

As for the stout casks, it was generally unremarkable, especially compared to its sibling. While it’s not a negative drinking experience by any stretch, you might be better served by just getting a pint of stout instead.

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