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303 Whiskey - distilled from potatoes?!?

A friend has strongly recommended that I try 303 Whiskey, distilled in Boulder, CO. Apparently it's distilled from potatoes and aged 8-10 months, and he claims it's unbelievably delicious. I'm going to pick up a bottle as soon as I can, but I'm curious if this stuff is on the cocktail radar at all.

One thought: since it's about the only potato whiskey around, it's definitely all made in-house - no buying a mash bill from one of the giant distilleries!

I'll report back after sampling, but I don't have enough experience to really know how it stacks up. I'll be tasting it against Basil Hayden's and Buffalo Trace bourbons, as well as perhaps some Bulleit rye and Stranahan's whiskey (since that's what I've got).

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  1. Never heard of it. I'm surprised they got away with calling it a whiskey given that it isn't grain based. I'll be interested to hear your thoughts. I'd be surprised if it tastes anything like those other whiskeys (given that they are true whiskeys).

    15 Replies
    1. re: sku

      I thought the same thing and I found an etymology for the term potato whisky from 1913. So while it doesn't pass the current definition of whiskey, it may have been grandfathered in somehow.

      http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

      1. re: yarm

        Do you have a link? I'd be surprised if the TTB engaged in that level of research, but who knows.

        1. re: sku

          A strong, fiery liquor, having a hot, smoky taste, and rich in amyl alcohol (fusel oil); it is made from potatoes or potato starch.
          Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
          http://www.websters-online-dictionary...

          Apparently a few hundred years' history of potato Irish moonshine known as "Poitín" or "Poteen" (there are two legal producers of it now in Ireland):
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poit%C3%ADn

          One of the Bourbon boards was questioning how it got by the TTB, and no one had an answer. The best I can think of was how sloppy "whiskey" had been used in the past. For example, tequila used to be called 'Mexican Whiskey' (or 'Mescal Brandy') in the United States since tequila was not recognized.

          1. re: sku

            I live near the distillery and they do tastings there, so if I can find time I'll drop by for a tasting and ask how they qualified to call it "whiskey"! I assume it's not entirely from potatoes, but who knows.

            1. re: monopod

              Everything I read says (including the bottle's label) insists that it's 100% potato. An article I found:

              "As of December of last year, the distillery has also expanded its offerings to include 303 Whiskey, a gluten-free potato whiskey that owner Steve Viezbicke says is the first federally licensed libation of its kind. "It's super smooth," said Viezbicke who started Boulder Distillery in 2008 with wife Terri. "We just followed the process. A lot of 'whiskey people' say it's not really whiskey, but it is. People do love it, though. We can't make it fast enough."

              1. re: yarm

                I wonder if they don't use a little barley or similar grain to start their mash.

                I was talking to Lorien @ Pemberton Distillery here in BC a few months back and she said that they had trouble getting their mash to start and do what it should without just a little bit of barley added to it. I can't recall the specifics, but she mentioned something about an important enzyme that does not occur in potatoes...

                1. re: thatwhileifound

                  Malted barley do contain the proper enzymes (amylases), although they could still claim all potato in the mash bill if they use purified enzymes. True, otherwise fermentation with potato does not get very far. I have read some recipes that use pressure cookers -- a technique that is used in tequila to turn the agave's starches into fermentable sugars.

                  1. re: yarm

                    They probably just add the enzyme. I think they say 100% potato.

            2. re: sku

              sku, now that you brought it to the attention of Chuck, I'm sure we will find out the real deal soon. As a distiller I wonder how this made it through TTB COLA.

              1. re: JMF

                Speaking of labeling issues, JMF, is your sugar wash spirit labeled as a rum, vodka, or other? Given "potato whiskey," perhaps "Prohibition whiskey"?

                http://cocktailvirgin.blogspot.com/

                1. re: yarm

                  labelled as a "100% Cane Neutral Spirits"

                  1. re: yarm

                    What the heck does "sugar wash" mean? I assume it is a variant on a rum...

                    1. re: StriperGuy

                      Sugar Wash was the style of moon shine invented during Prohibition. It is sugar, water, and yeast, which is called a sugar wash, fermented and distilled. Dutch's is made with turbinado sugar and a Caribbean rum yeast. very smooth, with a sort of light cachaca taste. It is the first legal one on the market.

                      1. re: JMF

                        I see said the blind man. Presumably if you did the same thing with molasses you'd have... rum.

                        1. re: StriperGuy

                          It could actually have been labeled as rum, but it wasn't created to have a rum flavor profile and was distilled up to 190 proof. By distilling to 190 proof we could call it vodka or cane neutral spirit. we wanted to put out something that was relevant to the history of the farm. go to the website and check out what I mean.

          2. It could very well be delicious, but I don't know how it could be whisky if it's from potatoes. It's like saying, "Tofu = Meat." Not bad, but not meat.

            Tell us how it tastes, though. I've not heard of it.

            4 Replies
            1. re: EarlyBird

              Etymology:

              The word whisky (or whiskey) is an anglicisation of the Gaelic word uisce|usige meaning water. Distilled alcohol was known to the medieval Latins as aqua vitae = "lively water"; and as aqua fortis = "strong water". This was translated to Gaelic as Irish: uisce beatha and Scottish Gaelic: uisge beatha = "lively water" or "water of life". Earlier anglicizations include usquebaugh /ˈʌskwɨbɔː/, usquebea (1706) and iskie bae (1583).

              1. re: StriperGuy

                Well I'll be damned. So, basically any spirit could technically be called whisky. Is that what I'm understanding here?

                1. re: EarlyBird

                  While, as StriperGuy notes, the term comes from "water of life," the same root as Vodka, Aquavit and many other spirits, a fair amount of development has happened in the last 400 years since then.

                  In general, whiskey now refers to a spirit distilled from grain and, usually, aged in wood. The US regulations require grain (which is why potato whiskey should not have qualified) and the Scotch regulations are even more specific, requiring a cereal grain. There was a big dust up a few years ago when an Indian company tried to export a "whiskey" made from sugar to the EU. They were not permitted to do so.

                  1. re: sku

                    Hey sku, I'll concede you are correct that in contemporary usage whiskey generally does mean from grain. I just think it is interesting that the derivation of the word really just means booze.

            2. My wife did business with them today. They asked if she'd like a bottle of their vodka (she doesn't drink) and she replied "thank you but no, my husband only drinks whiskey when he drinks." I guess they don't actually sell the stuff, they just make it for fun or something. Anyhow, I'm sitting here with the bottle right now after pouring myself an ounce. It was very nice of them to give her this bottle but I have to say it might be the single worst whiskey I've ever tasted.

              Stranahan's isn't bad at all.

              4 Replies
              1. re: rikjohnson

                Interesting... I never did get around to picking up a bottle. What makes it so bad? Too vodka-ish? (My friend who recommended it is a big fan of Stranahan's as well, interestingly.)

                1. re: monopod

                  It tastes like something very chemical and fake that is trying to be whiskey. I understand it comes from potatoes so it's going to taste different...but its different in a horrible way. Its like, "Let's make a tuna melt, but we'll use spackling instead of fish."

                  1. re: rikjohnson

                    I hate to use internet acronyms, but ROFLMAO, until I choked!

                    1. re: JMF

                      :) I'm sure their vodka is good, I've never heard anything but positive remarks regarding it. I asked my wife to buy a bottle of it next time she's there, although it's not what I generally drink.