By Richard Thomas
Old Potrero’s signature style is a 100% malted rye whiskey, which is why they call themselves a “single malt,” even though that term is most often associated with malted barley. The California distiller has been pursuing this style since the 1990s, part of a distinguished class of small distillers who were doing craft whiskey a decade before craft whiskey became even an embryonic thing.
Back in May, Old Potrero released a trio of new expressions. One was a single barrel, and another was a Port cask-finished whiskey. This latter was bottled at 7 years, 3 months of age, and at a cask strength of 131.2 proof.
This pour, with its bright bronze coloring, came as a surprise to me. Not because of the color, but because at more than 65% ABV, it’s actually rather moderate in tone. Although some water certainly improved its character, it wasn’t hot on the nose or the palate as it stood. The nose is musty, sweet and thick with molasses, but mostly holds the character of Christmas-spiced red wine. The flavor follows in much the same vein, but with an added layer of deep vanilla. It’s a rich, heavy whiskey, with the high ABV expressing itself mostly in weight rather than heat. The finish runs with spicy wood and wine, but doesn’t run on that way for long.
The Port cask finish really sings in this whiskey, forming a current at least as potent as the malted rye and primary maturation in new American oak. That cask finish stands as a full co-star in the act. The other standout feature here is, as I mentioned before, that it is a pretty potent cask strength whiskey that lands on the senses with heft rather than fire.
The official retail price for this bottle is $90.