Updated August 7, 2017
By Richard Thomas
Iowa’s Cedar Ridge is the oldest micro-distillery in the Hawkeye State, and in one way it is a very “Craft Whiskey 1.0” operation: they chose to produce a plethora of products rather than focus on just a few. Name a major type of whiskey, and Cedar Ridge is making it. In fact, they probably have more than one version of it.
Take Cedar Ridge’s single malts (yes, in plural). In 2014, the distillery released a cluster of them. They then followed this up by adopting the Solera system in 2015. The one I got to try is Batch 7, which was aged in a 15 gallon ex-bourbon barrel before receiving a Madeira cask finish. In essence, it’s a small barrel, Scotch-style malt made in America.
The look for this American malt is golden, with a coat of the glass dropping a spread of middling legs. The nose is straightforward, smacking of cereals and oak (the 15 gallon barrel showing itself, no doubt), accented with honey and clove.
A silky middleweight of a whiskey on the tongue, the flavor is surprisingly forward with caramel, given that the aging was in an ex-bourbon barrel, with notes of pine, mint and cocoa. It’s in the finish that the (no word play intended here) finishing barrel shows up best, since it turns decidedly nutty very early on in a long, lingering and warm wind-down.
Over all, Cedar Ridge has crafted a simple, pleasant dram here.
A 750 ml bottle of Cedar Ridge Single Malt will cost you $45, not bad by craft whiskey standards, and this example in a category that is coming almost entirely from craft sources.
Update: Although American malts are required to be only 51% or more malted barley, and not 100% malt like Irish, Scottish and other world malt whiskies, Cedar Ridge’s single malt is made with a 100% malted barley mash bill.