It’s always interesting to see a well-established distillery make a true pivot and enter a new sphere of the liquor market. Mississippi’s Cathead Distillery is one of the better-known craft producers of vodka in the U.S., to the extent that the average liquor drinker might be forgiven if they thought that vodka was the only product Cathead produced. In reality, the distillery has created a range of products since it first started distilling in 2010, including its flagship vodka and a range of flavored variants (honeysuckle, pecan, etc), along with several varieties of gin and a chicory liqueur. But bourbon? Now that’s a serious departure.
Recently, Cathead has gone and done just that, launching their first ever whiskey product in the form of Old Soul Bourbon Whiskey. This is a partially sourced, partially in-house distilled and aged straight bourbon, blended and packaged in a lovely, rounded bottle that evokes French cognac and certain scotch brands such as Glenmorangie. From a presentation standpoint alone, it’s clear that Cathead is going the extra mile to shape a premiumized perception for the product, although the roughly $39.99 MSRP places it somewhere near the higher end of the midshelf. And with an age of its distillates that falls between 4.5 and 2 years, it stands as somewhat pricier than others in its relative age bracket.
To their credit, Cathead isn’t coy about any of this information, stating freely on their website that Old Soul is composed of a blend of bourbons distilled in Indiana and Mississippi. “Indiana” is of course the behemoth that is MGP, producers of so much contracted bourbon and rye on the American market. We have no quarrel with this—MGP makes good products, and we only ask that distilleries make their sources clear. In specific, Old Soul is composed of the following, all of which are high-rye bourbons:
— 55% Straight Bourbon Aged for 4 years 8 months (MGP)
— 35% Straight Bourbon Aged for 4 years 3 months (MGP)
— 10% Straight Bourbon Aged for 2 years 1 month (Cathead)
Old Soul, then, represents a way for Cathead to get into the brown liquor game without needing vast reserves of their own aged spirit, but while still contributing something to the process. Many distilleries are selling purely sourced bourbon under their own label, so contributing any distillate of your own is always something that deserves a degree of credit.
With that said, let’s get to tasting.
On the nose, Old Soul strikes me with a lot of notes present in classic Kentucky bourbon, despite most of it hailing from Indiana. There’s a nuttiness here that is predominant, a combination of roasted peanut/peanut butter, chased by cinnamon sugar and rye bread. The ethanol seems a bit more expressive to me on the nose than expected for the 90 proof, but this is fairly young whiskey, so that does make sense.
On the palate, this strikes me as a decent balance between approachable and versatile. It’s by no means the most complex bourbon in its price range, but Old Soul features pleasant notes of light caramel, peanuts, rye spice and cinnamon candy. The oak is actually more expressive than one might expect for the age, but it has a particularly “green” quality that feels noticeably young—perhaps the results of the younger Mississippi spirit coming into deeper contact with the barrel while aging in a warmer climate. Overall, the impression is not unlike certain popular, 4-year-aged Kentucky bourbons that come to mind, although the price point is considerably higher, which must be expected with an independent producer. All in all, this is an uncomplicated by crowd-pleasing bourbon that has just enough complexity to get by. It seems more like a mixing or lighter cocktail bourbon to me than a neat drinker, and would likely fill either of those tasks admirably.
Distillery: Cathead Distillery
City: Jackson, MS
Style: American straight bourbon
ABV: 45% (90 proof)
Availability: 750 ml bottles, $39.99 MSRP
Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident brown liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.