By: Louis Marmon
May 26, 2017
It is not particularly remarkable that a state with 90 % of its land devoted to farming would have a portion of its agriculture end up in distillation columns. What is a bit surprising is that the state that produces the most corn in the US didn’t get it’s first distillery since Prohibition until 12 years ago.
In 2005, 9th generation farmer Jeff Quint established Iowa’s Cedar Ridge Distillery located a short distance from Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. They also make wines from local vineyards and feature an apparently popular tasting room. Their whiskies are aged for several years in American oak barrels placed in non-temperature controlled barns where they are exposed to the wide temperature variations that characterize the Hawkeye State’s annual weather.
Earlier this year Cedar Ridge was named “Distillery of the Year” at the American Distilling Institute (ADI) Conference and Expo. The ADI’s “Bubble Cap Award” (named for the device utilized by distillers to increase proof) is given to “the one distillery of the year that represents the very best in the world of artisan distilling: excellence in quality of spirits, innovation, transparency, authenticity of approach, sustained company growth, community involvement, and embodying the ethos of craft.”
Having tasted some of Cedar Ridge’s previous expressions, it was a pleasure to recently see how they have continued to improve. While some of their earlier whiskies exhibited a somewhat raw and unfocused character, the latest iterations are truer to form while maintaining an underlying uniqueness. The “Land of James T. Kirk” can now justifiably add “The Land of Award Winning Whiskies” to its list of State Slogans.
Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon Whiskey: Medium bodied with an interesting herbaceous note accenting the corn, dried stone fruit and caramel aromas and flavors. Less youthful in structure than earlier offerings, it opens nicely with a bit of water. Vanilla, nuts and caramel accent the pleasant finish.
Cedar Ridge Wheat Whiskey: Characteristically mild with nutty and citrus aromas. Added to the honey, dried fruit and bread flavors is a bit of pepper and spice. Candy, chocolate and oak in the finish.
Cedar Ridge Single Malt Whiskey: Also a mild whiskey but with more notable spiciness and character. There’s some cola and toasted nuts in the fruity nose along with raisins and caramel. Toffee, honey, malt and fruit flavors that flow into a complex pepper, fruit and vanilla accented finish.
Cedar Ridge Malted Rye Whiskey: Mild yet remarkably tasty, it opens with spicy cocoa, biscuit and cinnamon aromas. There is an undercurrent of sweet flavors with hints of candied fruit and cola as well as nuts, spice and dark berries. The finish has some smokiness along with cereal notes.
Enjoy these whiskies neat or as the base of a classic cocktail. By definition craft distillers are independently owned and operated, do their own distilling and annually produce less than 100,000 proof gallons. So you may have to do some searching to track down these award winners.