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Potrero Hill in San Francisco is the location of Anchor Distilling's production of the three Old Potrero 100% malted rye whiskeys. Anchor Distilling is affiliated with the more well-known Anchor Brewery.
The Old Potrero Single Malt Straight Rye Whiskey is also referred to as their '19th Century Style' whiskey. It is pot distilled in small batches, then aged in new charred oak barrels, to attempt to replicate the style of American rye whiskeys made and consumed in the US in the 19th Century.
Rye whiskey was THE standard most popular spirit in America in the period from 1750 until the 1920 onset of Prohibition, a disease from which the nation happily recovered after 13 long years of hypocrisy, suffering, lawlessness, and violence.
Before Prohibition, almost all US rye whiskeys were made in Pennsylvania and Maryland, with George Washington's Mount Vernon Rye Whiskey distillery located in Virginia just accross the Potomac River from Maryland. The rye whiskey tradition in the US largely derived from the many German settlers in Pennsylvania and Maryland who brought the tradition of distilling rye whiskey with them from the old country.
There is no age statement on the bottle, but because it is labeled "Straight Rye Whiskey" without qualifying age information, it is legally assumed to be aged four years. The reviewed bottle is from "Essay 10-SRW-ARM-H", or, simply, Batch H. The reviewed bottle has been open for 18 months.
Colour: rather dark
Body: medium, silky
Nose: strong spice from both rye and wood, mostly cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. The wood contributes maple sweetness and vanilla. A very fine nose, which has only improved with oxidation.
Taste: there is a good translation of nose flavours onto the palate, with enormous amounts of spice, which, as is typical with US Straight Ryes, just got bigger and bigger the longer the whisky oxidised after opening the bottle. In the early stages, eg the first year, of tasting this, I could taste the char, which I found both interesting, and a little distracting, because I have almost never noticed it before in other ryes. The char did not taste bad, but it stood out more than I would have considered optimal. Now, at 18 months of bottle open, the char is much more subtle by comparison. I like this whiskey's palate the best now, though it was still quite nice from the beginning.
Finish: the very crisp flavours just build up to a crescendo climax in the mouth, before starting a slow detumescence. Kinda like sex.
Balance: these Old Potreros are all very well made, refined whiskeys. Jim Murray likes to point out that there is an individual taste identity to each batch that they produce, and I have found that to be true. This is a craft approach that Anchor takes, and their quality control has been excellent. I like this Old Potrero Straight Rye Whiskey a lot, but its taste profile is much closer to the standard 20th and 21st century charred wood US Straight Rye Whiskey taste profile than are their other two products. This differs from other US straight ryes in being pot distilled rather than column distilled, and also in being made from 100% malted rye, rather than from, typically, a mashbill of 53% rye (usually completely UNmalted), 37% corn, and 10% malted barley. Do I recommend this whiskey? Hell, yes! Everything Old Potrero makes is worth having. At 45% ABV, this doesn't send me into the next galaxy with its off-the-charts taste intensity, as does the Old Potrero 18th Century Style Whiskey, nor does it have the gobsmacking complexity of their long-aged near-impossible-to-obtain Hotaling's Whiskey, but it is elegant, refined, flavourful, and delicious.
Bottom line: if you like rye, you will probably like this.