Anchor Distilling Has Been A Pioneer In Small Production Spirits, Bringing Pot-Distilled Whiskey Back To The United States
A Craft Beer Pioneer Sets His Sights On Spirits
The original Anchor Distilling Company was established in 1993 by Fritz Maytag, the same beverage visionary who sparked the craft beer movement with his purchase of Anchor Brewing in 1965. Maytag had rescued the struggling brewery and its iconic steam beer, and after several decades of exclusively producing beer, Maytag saw an opportunity for Anchor to expand into the distillation of spirits.
The Return Of Pot-Distilled Whiskey To The United States
Fritz's vision of a rye whiskey revival was fueled by the bold realization that there were no pot-distilled whiskeys being made legally in America at the time. Finding inspiration in the rye whiskeys of America's past and the great single malt whiskies of Scotland, Fritz gathered a small team to begin top secret research and experimentation in the distillery. The first whiskey went into barrel in 1994, and the decision was made to bottle the young whiskey at one year old. Anchor soon began producing three rye whiskeys under Fritz's guidance, all pot-distilled spirit from a mash of 100% malted rye. Over time, the range of spirits expanded into other categories, with the addition of Junípero Gin and Genevieve genever. The creation of Junípero was particularly significant, as it effectively started the movement towards high-end craft gin in the United States. More recently, Hophead Vodka was created in collaboration with the Anchor brewing team, and this year saw the launch of Anchor's Old Tom Gin.
Anchor Distilling Company Today
Today, Anchor Distilling Company has evolved to house a large and diverse portfolio of artisanal spirits from around the world, while the distilling team, including the original head distiller Bruce Joseph, continues the work that Fritz Maytag started back in 1993 at Anchor Brewers and Distillers in San Francisco. Anchor's portfolio now includes nearly 400 spirits from all over the world, with whiskey being a category of particular strength, and it continues to be a pioneering force for innovative spirits in the United States.
Old Potrero is an attempt to re-create the original whiskey of America, and marks the return of pot-distilled whiskey in the United States. It's distilled in a small copper pot still at Anchor Distillery on San Francisco's Potrero Hill from a mash of 100% rye malt, with rye being the grain of choice for America's first distillers.
This straight rye whiskey was aged in new handmade charred oak barrels. In traditional barrel making, the cooper heats the staves over a fire of oak chips, allowing them to be bent and formed into a barrel. During this process, the inside of the barrel becomes lightly toasted. By the early 19th century, coopers had learned that if they allowed the heat to continue, the inside of the barrel would burst into flames and become charred. Handmade oak barrels-charred in this traditional manner-impart a rich color and unique character to this rye whiskey. 48.5% ABV
Handmade oak barrels, lightly toasted in the traditional manner, impart a wonderfully subtle flavor. In the 18th century, barrels were made by heating the staves over a fire of oak chips, allowing them to be bent and formed into a barrel shape. During this process, the inside of the barrel would become toasted, but not charred. For aging, several uncharred oak barrels, both new and used, to achieve the balanced complexity that complements this whiskey's traditional heritage. 51.2% ABV
- Gold Medal - San Francisco World Spirits Competition, 2006
The distillers at Anchor present this whiskey in commemoration of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, and in celebration of the city's remarkable rebirth. In 1906, earthquake, fire and dynamite ravaged San Francisco, claiming 28,188 buildings and an incalculable number of lives. After the disaster, several clergymen asserted that the catastrophe had been divine retribution, visited upon the City by the Bay for its sinful ways. Thanks in part to the pluck and ingenuity of its staff, however, A. P. Hotaling & Co.'s Jackson Street whiskey warehouse survived. And so, "while millions of dollars worth of normally non-inflammable material was reduced to ashes," the Argonaut observed, thousands of "barrels of highly inflammable whisky were preserved intact in the heart of the tremendous holocaust." This unusual whiskey has been aged for 16 years in once-used, charred oak whiskey barrels. Many of the finest Scottish "single malts" are aged in the same manner. The method of producing this Hotaling's Whiskey is identical to the other Old Potrero whiskeys-it is a pot-distilled spirit from a mash of 100% malted rye. Only the barrel aging is different. 50% ABV
Long ago, Anchor Distillery some apple brandy aged in once-used charred straight rye barrels. After that apple brandy was done aging, the brewery used those barrels to age a stout for about a year. The distillery got those same barrels back and added 18th Century whiskey to them for 6 months. The 18th Century whiskey is not hidden in this cask finish, but highlighted. The roasted malts from the stout mix well with the spicy rye character found in Old Potrero and mellow into a slightly dark chocolate flavor that could only be found where you have both a brewery and distillery under the same roof. Finally, the apple brandy that had been sitting in those barrels getting deeper, and deeper into the oak makes it self-known by gracing the back palate for a slightly sweet, rich finish. 55.4% ABV
“The selection of barrels has always been a key ingredient to the Old Potrero expressions,” says Master Distiller Bruce Joseph. “This 100% malted Rye Whiskey is aged in new, toasted, extra fine-grain American oak barrels, similar to our 18th Century style. With these special finishes, we explored the influence of wine and beer on the spicy flavor profile of the whiskey.” The nose on this finish has hints of stone fruit and port but also the spicy rye character that Old Potrero is known for. The front of the palate is rye spice with a subtle grassiness that transitions into a rich port, fruit skin on the mid-palate and finally finishes with a sweet kick of Old Potrero rye. 57.3% ABV
- Double Gold Medal - New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, 2017
- Best in Show American Whiskey - New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, 2017
- Best in Show American Craft Whiskey - New York World Wine & Spirits Competition, 2017
Created in 1996 and celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2016, Junípero is America's original craft gin. Junípero Gin is made by hand in the classic London dry gin tradition, utilizing more than a dozen botanicals in their natural state in a small copper pot still at the small distillery on Potrero Hill in San Francisco, making it the first post-Prohibition craft gin distilled in the United States. Junípero is not chill-filtered, allowing the botanicals to marry gently and shine through the finished gin, and the higher proof of 98.6 brings forward the flavors in cocktails. The predominant flavor and aroma of a modern gin will always come from juniper (dried berries of the "common juniper," juniperus communis), but the wonderful challenge for the distiller is in selecting and blending from a wide variety of additional, exotic botanicals in order to impart a uniquely satisfying, balanced character to the gin. To create the secret proprietary recipe for Junípero, the Anchor Distilling team applied the knowledge gained from 10 years of mixing herbs, spices and botanicals for Anchor Brewing Company's annual Christmas Ale. The result is a distinctive, intriguing complexity in Junípero Gin that is light, crisp and clean, combining a deep and mysterious spiciness with subtle delicacy. 49.3% ABV
- Appearance: Clear
- Aroma: Strong juniper core. Crisp and clean with bright citrus notes and herbal complexity
- Palate: Aggressive, big structure with juniper at the forefront that opens up and reveals its full complexity in the finish with notes of lemon peel, cardamom and lemongrass
- Gold Medal - WSWA Tasting Competition, 2016
- 94 Points, Finalist - Ultimate Spirits Challenge, 2016
- ★★★★ Highly Recommended - F. Paul Pacult's Spirit Journal, 2015
- "Smooth, clean and very dry with assertive, classic flavors of juniper and citrus: a martini with one eyebrow raised." - Eric Asimov, New York Times
- "Arguably America's greatest gin." - Oliver Schwaner-Albright, Departures Magazine
Genevieve genever-style gin is an offshoot of Anchor Distilling Company's research into the history and evolving production methods that led to modern gin. In the late 19th century, technological advances enabled distillers to produce neutral spirits at very high proofs. When re-distilled with complex blends of juniper berries and other natural botanicals, these neutral spirits were transformed into what is known today as modern "distilled dry gin." The earliest gins, however-which came to be known as "genever" (or "Geneva gin," or "Hollands gin," or "Schiedam-style gin")-were a very different product. To be sure, juniper berries and other botanicals are used in both styles, but 17th century "genever" gin was distilled in primitive pot stills from a grain mash. Genevieve is Anchor's interpretation of this ancient and mysterious gin style. A grain mash of wheat, barley, and rye malts is distilled in a traditional copper pot still with the same botanicals used in Anchor's modern "distilled dry gin," Junípero Gin. Many early cocktail recipes that call for "gin" actually mean "genever gin," which has a strong flavor profile because it is pot-distilled from a grain mash. The most common way to consume genever has always been straight: either chilled, over ice, or, best of all, shaken with ice. A slight haze may form, which is normal for this all-natural product. 47.3% ABV
- "Kudos to Fritz Maytag and the distillers at Anchor for putting out Genevieve. If you can score a bottle, do it." - Matthew Rowley, Author of "Moonshine!"
Founded in San Francisco more than 100 years ago, Anchor Brewing & Distilling Company remains an innovator in the beverage industry. Fritz Maytag, the pioneer of modern craft brewing, became the instrumental force behind the company's resurrection in 1965, and sparked the modern craft spirits movement in the United States. Today, Anchor continues its tradition of artisan craftsmanship with the launch of Hophead Vodka. Inspired by the mesmerizing aroma of hops that permeates the brewery and distillery, head distiller Bruce Joseph and brewmaster Mark Carpenter, two of the original visionaries of the company, developed Hophead Vodka using small copper pot stills and two varieties of hops. The result is a vodka built on flavor, but not a "flavored" vodka. This premium craft spirit captures the fresh, aromatic character of hops without the typical bitterness. 45% ABV
- Best Spirit of 2013 - 7x7, 2013
- 95 Points, Chairman's Trophy - Ultimate Spirits Challenge, 2013
Anchor Distillery is proud to introduce a third style of gin from the distillery, Anchor Old Tom Gin. Anchor Old Tom, like its historical predecessors, is pot-distilled with juniper berries and other botanicals, sweeter than modern London dry gin, and bottled unfiltered. But unlike any other Old Tom, its sweetness comes from a blend of two traditional botanicals, star anise and licorice root, and one untraditional one: stevia. While known for centuries by natives of Paraguay, where we source our stevia, we believe that this is stevia's first use in gin, creating a sophisticated silky-sweet complexity that makes Anchor Old Tom perfect for mixing cocktails both old and new. In 1891, Bret Harte called San Francisco "a dusty drive with a cocktail at the end of it." If that cocktail had been a Tom Collins or a Martinez, it would have been made with Old Tom, a sweet pot-distilled gin enjoyed in San Francisco from the Gold Rush to Prohibition. Old Tom's namesake may have been Thomas Chamberlain, longtime partner with Benjamin George Hodges in Hodges's Distillery, Millbank, London. In 1823, they were credited for making "Old Tom, sir-the best Gin-by the Gods denominated blue-ruin, but by men below, Hodges's max." Our rakish tomcat is a salute to Capt. Dudley Bradstreet and the vending machine he created in 18th-century London for his illicit gin. "I...purchased...the Sign of a Cat, and had it nailed to a Street Window; I then caused a Leaden Pipe...to be placed under the Paw of the Cat; the End that was within had a Funnel." Customers put money in the cat's mouth and said, "'Puss, give me two Pennyworth of Gin.' I...put my Mouth to the Tube, and bid them receive it from the Pipe under her Paw, and then...poured it into the Funnel." 45% ABV
- Silver Medal - WSWA Tasting Competition, 2015
Anchor Distilling's Christmas Spirit – The Spirit of Christmas Past is a uniquely festive white spirit. This release was pot distilled in 2015 from 2014 Anchor Brewing's Christmas Ale, which features holiday spices. Anchor Brewing has been making distinctive and unique Christmas Ale since 1975, and every year the recipe is different – as is the tree on the label – but the intent with which it is offered remains the same: joy and celebration of the newness of life. It is double-distilled in small, copper pot stills at Anchor Distillery on Potrero Hill in San Francisco. Christmas Spirit offers an uncommonly balanced complexity: malty depth of flavor with hints of pine and pecan, clean and crisp hop character, a subtle Christmassy aroma, and a lingering, velvety-smooth spiciness unlike and other distilled spirit. This is an extremely limited production and available for a limited time exclusively in California. Try it on the rocks or as the inspiration for your own festive creation.