“Generous Reader” strikes again! Today’s review is courtesy of long-time and long-suffering reader formally referred to as “Generous Reader”, but this time it’s not a Talisker or Caol Ila. It’s a bit of an oddball, and not something I’ve ever seen on my local shelves out here in California. This is a blend of straight bourbons produced by Cathead Distillery in Jackson, Mississippi. Cathead is the first legal distillery in MS since Prohibition, and they produce vodka, gin, and bourbon.
So what’s a “Blended Straight Bourbon”, you ask? I’m not sure about the legal definition of the term, but Cathead has taken three straight bourbons and blended them together, so the term is apropos. The first two (totaling 90% of the blend) are 4 year-old MGP sourced bourbons and the third (at 10% of the blend) is Cathead’s own 2-year-and-1-month-old Mississippi bourbon. It’s not specified on the website, but I’m guessing there’s not much of the own-distilled juice to go around so they decided to stretch it with readily-available MGP liquid. Time will tell if the distillery updates its blend or its lineup when it has more of its own aged bourbon to pull from. The website lists the mash bill at 21% rye, 75% corn, and 4% malted barley, but it’s not clear whether all three bourbons share the same mash bill, or if that’s some kind of average.
The final blended straight bourbon is bottled at a respectable 45% ABV and retails squarely in the “craft” range, between $40 and $50. For the stats, those are “I believe in this enterprise and I want to support it” prices. Which, as much as I tend to knock it, is a strategy that can mean the difference between a working local distillery and a defunct boarded-up former distillery. Vote with your dollars, as they say.
Nose: Heavy nose tickle, but a good amount of caramel and nutty oak. The combination reminds me of pecan pie. It’s sweet on the nose, but not overly so.
Palate: Medium body. Strong but brief tongue burn. More of the same notes from the aroma, but there’s also more spice here – cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, a bit of barrel char, and a little bit of pine sap.
Finish: Medium length. A nice round, tart cherry note takes over and meshes nicely with the spices, which proceed through the finish. Finishes without evolving.
With Water: A few drops of water bring out a lot of the spices that were hiding, and adds a vanilla bean note. The water doesn’t seem to affect the palate, but makes the finish a bit sweeter. Definitely try this with a little water.
Overall: As I’ve taken to saying quite often lately, MGP makes some damn fine whiskey. Cathead’s blend turns the MGP components into a very tasty bourbon, with a lot of classic bourbon elements that are tied together nicely. The youth is detectable via a little pine note and a little extra vegetal bitterness at the tail end of the finish, but those are minor issues. Obviously, I’d prefer a higher percentage of Cathead’s own whiskey in the blend and I’ll be interested to see what a bottle of 100% Cathead whisky tastes like if they ever bottle one. If you have a tie to Mississippi or are in the area and see this on a shelf and want to support a local business, it’s probably worth a taste. Worst case, it’ll make perfectly acceptable bourbon cocktails.