Friday, June 5, 2020

Cat's Eye Distillery Light Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes



Light Whiskey is something that's making a comeback. It came into existence in 1968. It came into being because consumers were moving away from Bourbon and more into clear spirits such as vodka or gin. Yeah, I know, perish the thought. But, what is Light Whiskey? Well... first and foremost, it is distilled between 160° and 190°.  Contrast that with Bourbon or American Rye, which tops out at 160°.  But, that's not the only difference. It must also be aged in used, charred oak barrels or new, uncharred oak. 


What is was not designed to be was aged very long. Except, that wound up happening anyway, especially since its recent resurgence. 


Bring in MGP of Indiana. They had barrels and barrels of aged Light Whiskey, and some folks got interested in it. They started ordering those barrels and while it isn't a huge market, it is growing in popularity.  Thanks to distilleries like Cat's Eye Distillery of Bettendorf, IA, that buys MGP stock, and now you've got some distribution.  Cat's Eye produces its Light Whiskey under its Obtanium Master Collection Series


But wait, there's more.  Then you have retailers such as Niemuth's Southside Market of Appleton, WI, that get creative with what they buy from Cat's Eye.  They took a barrel of Cat's Eye Light Whiskey and left 1/3 of it alone, 1/3 of it was then finished in Bone Snapper Darkest Sourcerye and Doppelbock (Ball Buster Bock) barrels, and the last 1/3 in Traverse City Birthday Bu'url Bourbon and Stout barrels. 


Today I'm reviewing the unadulterated version.  It is distilled from a mash of 99% corn and 1% malted barley and aged for 13 years in used, charred oak barrels. By the time that was over and done with, it was bottled at 134.6° (67.3% ABV). Niemuth's offers this for $55.99 for a 750ml bottle.


I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  And now, time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Light Whiskey appears honey in color. It, strangely enough, didn't really leave a rim on the wall. Instead, it was a series of drops that then cascaded down the wall and back to the pool.  Those legs were medium in width and very slow.


Nose:  It started off with corn, which shouldn't be surprising considering it is made from nearly all that.  But, that was joined by vanilla and orange citrus.  Behind that was smoked oak and what I could swear was a dirty BBQ grill.  I know, that last one is weird, but that's what hit my mind. When I inhaled through my lips, I discovered a blend of chocolate and toasted coconut.


Palate:   At my first sip, it had a medium mouthfeel, but dang, it numbed the heck out of my hard palate.  I drink a lot of barrel-proof whiskeys and this one kicked my butt.  I'm not suggesting that's a bad thing, rather, it just shocked me. At the front, I tasted oak and very dark, heavy cacao chocolate.  As the whiskey worked its way across my tongue, I found cocoa, smoke, and cherry. And, as it moved to the back, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing.


Finish:  The Light Whiskey had an Energizer Bunny finish of coconut, oak, and clove. It was very long and warming, and left absolutely no question about its proof.


And, then, I got even more curious.  Using an eyedropper, I decided to add two drops of distilled water to see what would happen.


Nose:  This time, the nose was milk chocolate, like a Hershey's Kiss, and orange zest. When I inhaled through my lips, I found only vanilla. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was definitely thinner and all that punch disappeared. Up at the front were plum and date.  Then, at mid-palate, a marriage of vanilla, light smoke, and dry oak. And, again, zilch on the back.


Finish:  The length of the finish was greatly muted.  The coconut was gone. So was the warmth. But, the clove remained and was joined with dry oak and barrel char.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I enjoyed this Light Whiskey neat, despite the fact it numbed my hard palate so quickly.  I was not a fan of it proofed down. Neat, the nose and palate were complex despite the lack of anything on the back. With water, it became boring. When you take into account this is a 13-year, barrel-proof whiskey, the $55.99 price is quite affordable. As such, it takes my coveted Bottle rating. 


On a final note, I'm very curious about what the two finished expressions will taste like.  Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave it

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