Showing posts with label Iowa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iowa. Show all posts

Friday, May 7, 2021

Cat's Eye Obtainium Single Barrel Rye Review & Tasting Notes


It is difficult to give an introduction to Cat's Eye Distillery because I've reviewed many of its expressions. Cat's Eye buys a lot of whiskeys, often (but not always) from MGP, and packages it under its Obtainium label. Cat's Eye is headed by Gene Nassif, and in full disclosure, he's a friend. However, that won't change the outcome of this or any review.

Single barrel whiskey is cool because once that barrel is gone, it won't be repeated. If you took two barrels, coopered them the same day from the same stack of staves, charred them the exact same amount of time, filled them with the same newmake, and put them adjacent to one another in the same rickhouse for the same amount of time, they'll be different. That's just the nature of whiskey in the barrel.

Today I'm drinking its 5-year single barrel Rye, specifically Barrel SC90. This weighs in at a hefty 118.3° and is distilled by MGP.  This whiskey runs about $50.00 for a 750ml bottle.  

I obtained my sample of this Rye from Cat's Eye's Wisconsin distributor and would like to thank them for it in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and find out what this one's all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Rye presented as deep, orange amber in color. It generated an ultra-thin rim which, in turn, formed medium-thick, slow legs.

Nose:  The aroma of dill was obvious. It was joined by mint, cinnamon, and rye spice. When I drew the fumes in my mouth, caramel rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  An oily mouthfeel with a medium body started things off. On the front of my palate, I tasted rye bread, vanilla wafers, and nutmeg. The middle featured mint and very light, dried cherry. On the back, flavors of dill, rye spice, cinnamon, and oak gave an unusual experience. 

Finish:  Medium in length, the finish consisted of smoked oak, cinnamon spice, rye bread, and then an explosion of dill pickle muted everything else. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This Rye drinks much lower than its stated proof. If I had no idea what it was, I'd guess about 100°. If you're looking for heat, you'll want to go elsewhere. I like dill. I'm a pickle freak. However, it dominated both the back of the palate and even more on the finish, and while I understand some folks like a pickleback, that's not my thing. If that's your jam, you're going to love this whiskey, but I found it distracting. I'm conferring a Bar rating for this. Cheers! 

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

Monday, April 12, 2021

Obtainium Single Barrel 14-Year Light Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


What isn't shown in the photo above is the massive snowflakes coming down. Yeah, it is snowing again. A very fair question would be, Why is this Whiskeyfellow character out in a snowstorm taking a picture of whiskey? Keep looking at the photo, specifically where it mentions the proof. That says 147°, and this would be one of the highest-proof whiskeys I've ever tried.

Another fair question is, What is light whiskey? Is that diet whiskey?  Well, no.

Light whiskey came into existence in 1968 because consumers were moving away from Bourbon and more into clear spirits such as vodka or gin. Light whiskey is distilled between 160° and 190°.  Contrast that with Bourbon or American Rye, which tops out at 160°.  It must be aged in used, charred oak barrels or new, uncharred oak. Most distilleries didn't let it age very long, but then light whiskey fell out of favor, and the stocks were left hanging around, mostly ignored and forgotten.

What we have here is a light whiskey distilled by MGP of Indiana and bottled by Cat's Eye Distillery out of Bettendorf, Iowa. Packaged with its Obtainium label, this barrel sat in the MGP warehouse for 14 years. That's not all, this is a single barrel offering, and as such, it is the pure experience of what light whiskey can become. It retails for $54.99.  

I'd like to thank Cat's Eye Distillery's Wisconsin distributor for providing me a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as a rich, caramel color. The rim was so faint, I had to squint to pick it out. A wavy curtain of legs, if you could call them that, dropped back to the pool.

Nose:  Aromas of brown sugar and caramel hit my olfactory senses. I also smelled orange peel, nutmeg, and cinnamon. When I drew the vapor in my mouth, I tasted butterscotch.

Palate:  Shockingly, my tongue was not set on fire while sipping this. I admittedly psyched myself out preparing for it. It was definitely warm and thin. I also found it to be a caramel bomb from start to finish. The front added butterscotch and brown sugar. At the middle, I experienced only vanilla. The back featured notes of oak and cinnamon.

Finish:  I felt like I was sucking on a cough drop, a menthol blast literally cleared my sinuses. The finish lasted for what seemed to be forever. Caramel and butterscotch continued until the very end. Toasted oak made a brief appearance and cinnamon red hots carried the remainder. While spicy, I need to stress it wasn't hot.

With Water:  I don't normally add water to my whiskey unless I'm curious what would happen. Something that pushes the Haz-Mat envelope is an opportunity I didn't want to pass up. Some people add a splash of water. I'm pretty Type-A when it comes to adding water and I use an eyedropper, and I always measure out two drops of distilled water.

Nose with Water:  The brown sugar and butterscotch were magnified, as was the caramel. The spice completely fell off, and the orange peel became candied. Overall, the nose got sweeter.

Palate with Water:  The mouthfeel became thick and creamy. The caramel bomb vanished, while the cinnamon spice and oak took center stage. 

Finish with Water:  Black pepper, clove, and cinnamon spice created a very long finish. Absolutely shocking was the finish got both hotter and spicier, almost painfully so. My hard palate was buzzing despite the fact I only took a simple sip.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  With water, I did not enjoy this light whiskey at all. The water ruined it. But, drunk neat, it was tasty and surprisingly easy to drink. I got past the menthol blast and was able to savor the flavors, perhaps because my sinuses were cleared. If you drink whiskey neat, I think Cat's Eye has a winner here. If you are into adding water, this may be one to avoid. I'll stick with the way I normally drink whiskey and crown it with a Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Obtanium 5-Year Single Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Despite the fact I've been writing about Obtainium whiskeys for the last year, I've never really thought about what obtainium means. Curiosity got the best of me and I looked it up. It is a slang term that represents things that have been taken or stolen that others have discarded. When you consider what Cat's Eye Distillery does, the name is fitting (no, they don't steal). They've been grabbing up MGP Light Whiskey, which is something many non-distilling producers (NDPs) have overlooked.

Today I'm reviewing Obtanium 5-Year Single Barrel Bourbon out of Cat's Eye. This, too, is MGP-distillate, although which Bourbon mash is undisclosed. It is from barrel SC-88, which aged five years and is bottled at 118.3°, which is barrel strength.  It is non-chill filtered. You can expect to pay about $50.00 for a 750ml bottle.

I'd like to thank the Wisconsin distributor for Cat's Eye for a sample of this Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the color presented as orange-amber. It generated a heavy rim that collapsed into thick, fast legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I found the nose corn-forward, along with aromas of nutmeg, caramel, and boysenberry. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, salted caramel rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was coating and full-bodied. On the front, I tasted caramel and corn. On the mid-palate, some complexity was added with black cherry, cocoa powder, and almond. The back consisted of rye spice, clove, and toasted oak.

Finish:  The longer finish offered toasted oak, nutmeg, rye spice, and more of that salted caramel. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  While not an overly complicated Bourbon, this was very tasty. I loved how the caramel switched between classic and salted and then blended with the rye spice and oak at the end. It also doesn't drink at its stated proof, I would have guessed it to be about 15 or so points lower, which made it an easy drinker. Considering everything, including the bang for the buck, I have no issues handing over my coveted Bottle rating.  Cheers!

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

Friday, January 29, 2021

Nassif Family Reserve Review & Tasting Notes

What happens when you try to create something special - a one-off - for a major life event, and it turns out so well you decide to bottle it for everyone? Gene Nassif of Cat's Eye Distillery did that with his Nassif Family Reserve. The backstory on this is that he wanted to blend something for his wedding guests to enjoy during his nuptials. Usually, with cute stories of how a whiskey came about, I smirk because I know better. But, Gene is also not a stranger - I've known him for a few years, and I know he married last year.

Gene sources off-the-radar whiskeys to tinker with. If you've never had a Polish Rye, Cat's Eye has one.  Last year I reviewed an MGP-sourced 13-year Light Whiskey. he seems to be a fan of Light Whiskey from MGP and keeps going to them for more.

With Nassif Family Reserve, he went with a 14-year MGP Light whiskey and blended it 50/50 with a 3-year 10-month MGP Bourye (a blend of 95%/5% Rye and a 60%/36%/4% high-rye Bourbon). That was then diluted to 107°, and a 750ml bottle of this American whiskey runs about $39.99.

I'd like to thank Wisconsin's distributor for Cat's Eye for providing a sample of Nassif Family Reserve in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. For the record, I'm going to #DrinkCurious with Batch 4.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as burnt orange in color. It wasn't quite clear, but it also can't be described as cloudy. A thicker rim was produced, and that generated heavy, slow legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  While not overly aromatic sitting by itself, once I brought the glass to my mouth, it was effortless to pick out toffee, corn, butterscotch, and floral notes. What I didn't find was anything spicy. As I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the butterscotch continued.

Palate:  A creamy, medium-body mouthfeel led to caramel, almond, and tobacco leaf on the front. At mid-palate, sweet vanilla, honey, and muted peach took over. Then, on the back, clove, rye, and cinnamon.

Finish:  At first, Nassif Family Reserve the finish began as a toffee bomb. That morphed to spice with cinnamon and black pepper. It was cooled by toasted oak, and then very late in the finish, I tasted cherry. There was nothing quick about it.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Nassif Family Reserve is touted as something approachable for beginners yet nuanced enough for more experienced sippers. Overall, I'd have to agree, although I'm left wondering if the 107° is a tad too aggressive for newbies. Regardless, I appreciated the nice balance between sweet and spice. The price offers no real barrier to entry. Do the math and this one winds up snagging a Bottle rating. Cheers!

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


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

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Iowa Legendary Rye Red Label Review

Iowa has a rich bootlegging history. Unlike many of the moonshiners of long ago, who distilled (and distributed) in secret, in Iowa, particularly around Carroll County, the local economy depended heavily on it and entire towns were in on the operation.  Oh, it was still illegal as hell, but when the revenuers came, the whole town was in on making sure there was denial, deflection, and distraction. It went from the moonshiners to the pastors and from the police to judges. Everyone was in on the game.

Recently I was in Carroll and had an opportunity to meet with the folks at Iowa Legendary Rye and was shown around by Rich, Alec, and Max. There were a lot of things said to me in confidence that I promised I would not publish and you know what my integrity means to me. In other words, if I'm not talking about it, don't ask because I won't tell. And, if you don't see a photo of it, it is because I agreed not to photograph it. Nothing illegal, just trade secrets.

Speaking of illegal, this recipe goes back to 1931 and unlike many backstories that are just tall-tales, Rich is the real deal. Things with Iowa Legendary Rye went legal in 2014.

The distillery is located in a nondescript one-story building in downtown Carroll.  You could drive right by the place (I did) and not even know the building housed a distillery. This is a true micro-distilling operation. Iowa Legendary Rye prefers to use the term small batch which is descriptive but as many whiskey people know, the term has no legal definition. Micro-distillery is much more accurate.

Ingenuity is key at Iowa Legendary Rye.  Handmade tooling, home-made stills, and a ton of growing-up-in-the-moonshine-business things are how it is done. I saw stuff that distilleries have spent tens of thousands of dollars on that Rich, the guy who has been doing this since he was a kid, spends $20 on parts from the local hardware store and it works just as well, if not better. I found myself laughing - not at them - but just in jaw-dropping shock with what they're doing compared to what I'm used to seeing. 

It starts off with the grain. Everything except the barrels and bottles come from Carroll County. They're using 100% organic rye and a bit of cane sugar.  There are no enzymes used at all. The rye is then ground and then fermented in 53-gallon, food-grade plastic barrels. They're distilling about 50 or so gallons a day.

First, there is their white whiskey. It is proofed down to 80° and this is the base for everything Iowa Legendary Rye puts out, including the vodka. For what it is worth, I tried both.  The white whiskey lacks any heat and goes down way too easy. The vodka is distilled twice and then charcoal-filtered (using one of those $20 contraptions I mentioned earlier). It is fruity with grape, melon, and berry - something that I don't run across often in vodka.

Everything is aged in 15-gallon, #5 charred oak barrels. That's right, #5 char. Those barrels are aged between 18 and 24 months before being bottled on-site using a very small, hand-bottling machine.  I got to visit the equally non-descript rickhouse.

Iowa Legendary Rye makes three finished whiskeys:  Black Label (their standard Aged Rye), Red Label (called Private Reserve, which I will review), and Patriot, which is a limited-edition, twice-distilled, twice-aged barrel proof Rye.

I want to thank Rich, Alec, and Max for both the private tour and the sample for a no-strings-attached, honest review of the Private Reserve.

Private Reserve is essentially Aged Rye that is then aged a second time in used cooperage.  Retail is about $69.00 and it, like everything else (except Patriot) is bottled at 80°.  Is an 80° Rye that many people have never heard of worth $69.00?  The way we find out is to #DrinkCurious.  For the record, I'm pouring Batch 44.

In my Glencairn glass, Private Reserve appeared as the color of chardonnay. It left a very heavy rim that created medium-fat legs to drop back to the pool. 

Even before the glass got anywhere near my face, the aroma of buttered popcorn was in the air. Coming closer, brown sugar joined the game. I discovered a slight evergreen (not to be confused with juniper) quality, and then vanilla cream. When I inhaled through my lips, a flavor I'm fairly certain I've never used in a whiskey review before: buttermilk.

A thin but coating mouthfeel greeted my palate. There was no burn factor whatsoever. At the front, I picked up caramel and (again) buttered popcorn. Come mid-palate, those flavors melted into both vanilla and chocolate. Then, on the back, a healthy dose of rye spice and tobacco leaf, with just a touch of coconut.

The long finish of charred oak, cocoa, and black pepper built fast without becoming overwhelming. I did discover that my hard-palate started to tingle, perhaps because I was casually sipping without long pauses in between.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  The question I asked earlier was, Is an 80° Rye that many people have never heard of worth $69.00?  This, like the white whiskey, went down way too easy. It has an enticing nose, and while it had some familiar rye notes on the back and finish, the front- and mid-palates were on the unusual side for Rye, especially the buttered popcorn. This is something I could sit on my zero-gravity chair on my deck and smile while drinking. And, it may even be a bit dangerous due to how easy it is to enjoy. 

$69.00 is on the pricey side for true craft whiskey and for that, it needs to do something different. Iowa Legendary Rye accomplishes that task and does it in a great way. As such, it snags my coveted Bottle rating. 

On a parting note, I'm learning that Rye and used cooperage make an excellent combination - not just Iowa Legendary Rye but other brands as well.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it