Whiskey Review: Cedar Ridge Malted Rye

Whiskey Review: Cedar Ridge Malted Rye

cedarridgemaltedryeSwisher, Iowa’s Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery, which holds the distinction of being Iowa’s first craft distillery, offers an eclectic selection of drinks. Initially a winery producing a range of wines from Frontenac to red and white blends to port, all made with estate-grown grapes, they made the pivot to distilling in 2005 when they acquired a German-built, 80-gallon pot still. Initially selling vodka and fruit liqueurs, in 2010 the distillery released a small-batch bourbon, Iowa’s first since the end of Prohibition.

Here in the states, pot stills have mostly fallen by the wayside in favor of their more efficient cousin, the column still, though they’re still commonly used for distilling Scotch and Irish whiskeys. With interest in craft and artisan spirits growing, however, Cedar Ridge has found a niche for the pot still: turning out high-end, small-batch spirits, to critical acclaim.

Last September, we wrote about the release of Cedar Ridge’s limited-run malted rye. In a process usually reserved for barley, the rye grain is soaked in water until it germinates,  then blasted with hot air to stop germination and develop flavor in the grains. The distillery ascribes the unique toast and biscuit notes in this spirit to the malting process. Of all the rye whiskeys produced in the world, only a handful use this process, setting Cedar Ridge Malted Rye firmly apart from the pack of standard American ryes.
At the moment, it’s available in stores only in New York and Minneapolis. I was lucky enough to sample this unique whiskey, which has an ABV of 43%, and a mash bill that includes upwards of 85% rye.

Tasting Notes

In the glass, this whiskey is a rich copper with thick, heavy legs.

Nose:  Fruit- and grain-forward, with a hint of smoke and a pleasant spiciness. The mingling berry, cinnamon, and biscuit notes call to mind a freshly-baked blueberry pie.

Palate:  Spice and dark fruit dominate the palate, with a creamy mouth feel.

Finish:  Berry and smoke are apparent in the warm, silky smooth finish, and toasty cereal tones linger on the palate.

This is quite a unique rye. I’m often somewhat skeptical of claims of the superiority of small-batch production when it comes to spirits, but this is a whiskey that lives up to the hype. I give this complex, well-balanced, downright delicious rye a score of 95.