As all three of my regular readers will remember, I mentioned in my update of our NWC “New American Whiskies” tasting in July that I had unsuccessfully searched for a small, “craft” distilled wheated bourbon. But, naturally, as fate would have it, shortly after the tasting I found one……timing is everything, isn’t it! Anyway, since the July tasting is fresh in my mind, the post on the whiskies we tried is still recent, and I still have an open bottle of the Larceny, I thought I would do a quick review of the Cody Road Bourbon Whisky, produced by the Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire, Iowa, and then compare it to Larceny, an “established,” big distillery-produced wheated bourbon from the Heaven Hill Distillery that was part of our American Whiskies tasting.
About the Mississippi River Distilling Company
The Mississippi River Distilling Company is based in LeClaire, Iowa, part of the Quad Cities sitting on the Illinois/Iowa border and spanning the Mighty Mississippi River. Founded in 2010 by brothers Ryan and Garrett Burchett, MDR produces River Rose Gin, River Pilot Vodka and River Baron Artisan Spirit (80% corn, 20% wheat) along with some seasonal spirits and the Cody Road Bourbon and Cody Road Rye. The Cody Road products are named in honor of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody who was born in LeClaire in 1846.
MDR operates with a single still, one they named “Rose,” built by Kothe Distilling Technologies in Eislingen, Germany, The handmade, 1,000 liter still has a central boiling pot and two copper rectification columns. There are a series of plates in the rectification columns that can be opened or closed to increase or reduce the amount of copper contact and which provides MDR with tremendous flexibility to make any number of styles of distillate. If you’re interested, click on this link, Short video tour of the distillery, to watch a two-minute video about Mississippi River Distilling Company.
Review: Cody Road Bourbon Whisky, Bottled 2015, Batch 9, Bottle 112 (of ~1200)
Cody Road Bourbon is made with a mash consisting of 70% corn, 20% wheat and 10% unmalted barley. All of the grain used comes from local farmers within 25 miles; the corn comes from LeClaire and the wheat and barley from Reynolds, IL. MDR uses a 1 week fermentation and takes a narrow cut to focus on the sweeter hearts. Cody Road Bourbon is aged for one year in newly charred 30 gallon oak barrels. And all Mississippi River Distilling Company products are hand bottled and labeled with batch information.
Color: Light, golden amber.
Nose: Starts with a soft, sweet corn mixed with a touch of varnish and a rather pronounced fresh oak. It quickly becomes grassy and nutty, with hints of white pepper. There is a bit of cardboard that reminds me of a freshly opened box. The oaky, grassy, nutty notes remain dominant throughout, but after a few minutes some soft fruit notes start to creep in to provide some (needed) roundness. Water doesn’t seem to alter the nose much, it remains very grain-focused and with quite a bit of oak influence
Taste: A rather delicate, buttery-sweet arrival, long on the cereal notes, with a touch of fresh lemon juice, peaches, a dash of cinnamon and warm cream. There is a fleeting alcohol bite in the mid-palate that dissipates quickly leading into the finish. The body is softly creamy, but a tad thin, revealing the whiskey’s youthfulness. With water, the corn sweetness picks up a notch and provides better balance to the palate. The body also improves, becoming slightly richer, denser on the tongue, albeit still “young” feeling.
Finish: Of moderate length, it is the creamy cereal and lemon juice notes that hold the finish until the very end where some oak tannins bring out a subtle bitter bite that is a nice shift.The water also adds just a bit of that corn sweetness to the finish.
Overall: The distillery description identifies this as a “grain-forward” whisky, by intent, and that is very accurate. Certainly this is young, evidenced mostly on the tongue with its slightly underdeveloped body, but it is an engaging and enjoyable whiskey that shows great promise.
Comparing Cody Road Bourbon to Larceny, both of which are “wheated” Bourbons, is challenging as there are few similarities; each of these whiskies possess very distinct personalities. The Larceny is “bigger” on the tongue with a body that is richer and more “mature.” Larceny is more “mainstream” showing more of a “connection” to traditional Bourbons with its notes of brown sugar, caramel and dark fruits. The Cody Road Bourbon chooses to not follow the mainstream, opting to highlight the grains, so although this shares the wheated bourbon definition with Larceny, it is its own whisky.
For me, I really enjoy the creamy dark fruits and the sweet and mellow nature of Larceny perhaps a tad more than the Cody Road, but the Cody Road Bourbon is quite good and I think the Burchett Brothers are on the right path to establishing their whisky as one that offers a new twist. Given a little more aging, I think that the short-comings – the overly delicate body, and the narrow, somewhat austere profile – will start to disappear. I think longer maturation will introduce a slightly more off-setting sweetness that I think is needed to balance and complement the very nice grain notes that are at the core of this whisky. I look forward to following this whisky to see how it develops…and to try their Cody Road Rye.
Region: United States (Iowa)
Distillery: Mississippi River Distilling Company
Age: 1 year
Maturation: 30 gallon, charred American Oak barrels
Availability: Currently Available (Total Wine, True Spirits, Specs)
Sample Source: My own bottle