A Very Special Old Potrero

There was a time when the Old Potrero rye whiskey from San Francisco's Anchor Spirits was one of the most coveted whiskies we sold. Locally, it was for years the most requested item from our American whiskey selection, before anyone knew or cared about what Pappy was. We were lucky to get a bottle here or a six pack there; whatever the gang at the distillery could spare each time they bottled a new batch of juice. Spearheaded by Anchor founder and father of American craft distillation Fritz Maytag back in the mid-1990s, the project was originally an homage to the style of rye whiskey Americans might have consumed during the 1800s, distilled from 100% malted rye (hence why it's labeled as a single malt) on a tiny pot still in the bowels of the Potrero Hill facility. This, remember, was back when few people cared about whiskey whatsoever, let alone an expensive, pot-distilled rye from some microbrew owner in the Bay Area. Today, however, times have obviously changed and the output of the small Anchor distillery has increased significantly to supply the demand. These days we have it on the shelf full-time, but over the last year I'd heard rumblings about an expansion of the portfolio.

It's no secret that I'm close with the gang at Anchor and when they hinted a while back that a single barrel option might be on the table, I made sure they knew just how interested I was; especially since I could get it bottled at full proof. Seeing that Old Potrero was getting ready to launch a barrel-finished series including beer-barrel editions, there was a number of different casks to choose from and I was given my choice right out of the gate. It was a tough selection process, but there was one Chardonnay French oak barrel that exploded right out of the glass. It was 55.3% and absolutely brimming with baking spices and malty rye goodness, with a chewy, decadent finish that I could practically sink my teeth into. 

"That one," I told the Anchor gang. "That's the one." 

Opening a bottle today with the Redwood City staff to let them taste the finished product, I saw the same sense of amazement in the eyes of my co-workers. 

"It's not inexpensive," I warned them. "It's gonna be about a hundred bucks per bottle." But it was clear they were all on board. I've gone back on four separate occasions already this morning and the whiskey continues to wow me. It's so rich and dark compared to the standard releases and it is absolutely jam-packed with spice thanks to the oak finishing. It's almost like an Angel's Envy type of experience, but without all that red-fruited saturation from the port. At 110.6 proof, it practically explodes in your mouth. 

After more than two decades of doing business with Anchor, this is the first time we've been able to snag a private cask of Old Potrero, so it's a big deal. Let's hope this isn't the last time, however. If the single barrel editions taste this good, we may see another run on the brand.

Old Potrero "K&L Exclusive" Single Chardonnay Barrel Straight Malt Rye Whiskey $99.99

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll