Cedar Ridge Malted Rye Whiskey

Class:  Iowa Malted Rye Whiskey

Reviewer:  Andrew Owen

Cedar Ridge Distillery, in the tiny farming community of Swisher, Iowa became Iowa's first licensed distillery since Prohibition when it was founded by local Iowan and winemaker Jeff Quint in 2005.  Cedar Ridge originally started as, and still is, a winery in addition to distillery.  According to Quint, he found it odd that Iowa is the number one corn producing state in America, yet no one in the state made bourbon (which is of course predominantly corn).  Quint started distilling on a custom 80 gallon pot still in 2005, and launched Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon Whiskey in 2010.  Whiskey production has since expanded to include single malt, wheat, and malted rye whiskeys.  Cedar Ridge also distills gin, vodka, brandy, and rum.  Since it's inception, Cedar Ridge has gained some notoriety among the craft distilling movement, winning Craft Distillery of the Year in 2017 by the American Distilling Institute, among other accolades.  In November of 2017, Cedar Ridge announced a $2 million expansion to its distillery and rick houses to effectively double its current production capacities.

Cedar Ridge sources all of its grain as locally as possible from surrounding farms, and ages all of its whiskey onsite in non-temperature controlled rick houses.  Given the relative youth of this distillery, most of its whiskeys are quite young, however, older bottlings like the 5 year Reserve Bourbon have started to become more available as this distillery continues to grow up.  Aging whiskey in the maddeningly inconsistent (believe me, this writer knows) Iowa climate does cause a relatively quicker maturation of aging spirit, as extreme changes in temperature and humidity cause a relatively accelerated rate of oak and spirit interaction.

Utilizing the rare feature of being both a winery and distillery, and having several aged spirits in production, Cedar Ridge integrates different cask types with regularity.  You can find single malt whiskey aged in wine, rum, and ex-bourbon casks, single barrel bourbons aged in port casks, single barrel rye aged in rum casks, rum aged in bourbon casks, etc.  

Of course, being a proud home-grown Iowan, I monitor the happenings of the Cedar Ridge Distillery with regularity.  My wife and I have made a couple short trips to the estate, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't have a special place in my heart.  While I have my concerns over the craft distilling industry in general, its hard not to root for these guys.  Nevertheless, a whiskey bottle is judged by what's inside it, not what's on the label or who its made by.  So lets see how this unique malted rye whiskey fares.

Notes:

  • Mashbill of 51% malted rye, 34% unmalted rye, 12% corn, and 3% malted barley
  • No Age Statement
  • Distilled, aged, and bottled by Cedar Ridge
  • 43% ABV

Nose:  An initial blast of bright, twangy, assertive pine atop of cushion of malted vanilla cream.  As it opens up, anise, mint and hints of cinnamon appear.  If pine-flavored ice cream was a thing, it smells like this.  Under the bright rye notes, there’s some toasted grain – like freshly baked bread, some white pepper and something alittle soapy.  Great balance and integration of flavors.

Palate:  Initial entry flavors of soft grain persist only for a moment before being overwhelmed by sharp, juicy pine, green tree sap, malted vanilla ice cream, clove, and anise (licorice).  Some light, not-too-astringent wood creeps in near the end.  Light, silky body that leaves the mouth coated.

Finish:  Malted vanilla, a hint of fruit – tart cherries, some cinnamon and oak.  Long.

Score:  75/100

Buying Recommendation:  Well worth buying a pour.  Like its unique mash bill, this whiskey is a bit of an enigma to me.  For a 4-ish year old whiskey, it contains a crazy amount of complexity and cohesiveness of flavors.  The quality of its craftsmanship is apparent.  The only betrayal of its youth is the sharp pine notes that permeate the nose and palate, but contrary to most other young ryes I try, these notes are kept in balance by the plethora of other flavors. 

If you like those common rye flavors of pine and licorice, this whiskey will score higher for you than it does for me.  That said, this is still a whiskey I usually keep in my cabinet and, when the odd mood hits, I quite enjoy it when I pour it.  At around $35 here in Iowa, its not a stellar value, but no craft whiskey is.  Still, it has my recommendation that you all seek out a pour of this if for nothing else than to experience its unique flavor profile.  If you resonate with the flavor notes I listed, skip the single pour and go get yourself a bottle.

The Rating Scale

At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92).  This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys.  Here is how the scale breaks down:

1-49:  Varying degrees of bad

55:  Average

60-69:  Better than average

70-79:  solid/good

80-89:  excellent

90+:  truly exceptional

All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.

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Publisher

All Time Favorite Whisky: Balblair 1990 2nd Edition

Daily Drinkers: Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Springbank 10 Year

A former craft beer enthusiast, Andrew fell in love with whiskey after tasting a pour of Laphroaig 10 year and being amazed that such a flavor could exist within a liquid. With a college background in biochemistry and a passion for history, Andrew quickly grew to love the science of whiskey making, the history of different distilleries, and the exploration of flavors within a dram. To Andrew, whiskey is more than just a drink; it is a fascinating mix of art and science – an intricate beauty to be pondered and appreciated. Besides this, Andrew has found that a nice bottle of whiskey has an amazing ability to bring people together and unite people from all different backgrounds together as friends.

While Andrew can be found drinking any style of whiskey from any region around the world, he has a particular affinity for spice-laden bourbons and coastal scotches. Besides drinking whiskey, Andrew also enjoys weight lifting, road biking, and cooking.

5 thoughts on “Cedar Ridge Malted Rye Whiskey”

  1. Andrew, you may be the exact person to ask, I have a Cedar Ridge Batch #1. I haven’t opened it yet, and was wondering if it would be worth holding onto, or just cracking it open and drinking it now. Have you had it, and what can I expect?

    1. I have not had batch 1, but that is a cool piece of history to have from a distillery who I genuinely believe will do some big things and really make a name for itself as it grows up. If it were me, I’d probably stash that bottle away and buy a current one for drinking.

  2. We recently saw for the first time their Batch 10 sungle malt. Have you had a chance to taste that? We have a bourbon purchased for us at the distillery but never tried the single malt or even seen it for sale before so would like to try a batch but given the big differences in each batch, want to make a wise choice

    1. I have not had batch 10 specifically, but their Single Malt is the star of Cedar Ridge’s whiskeys, in my opinion. I have not had a bad batch yet!

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