Cedar Ridge is a distillery and winery located in Swisher, Iowa, right in the heart of grain country. Founded in 2005, they’re Iowa’s first craft distillery and the very first distillery in the state since Prohibition.
The state of Iowa has a fascinating history when it comes to distilled spirits. Until the 1880s, the state was home to a robust distilling industry, including the International Distilling Company of Des Moines, which claimed to be the largest distillery operation in the country. Unfortunately, Iowa was also a national leader in another realm: the Temperance Movement. Though Prohibition wasn’t enacted on a national scale until 1920, Iowa began passing legislation to restrict or ban alcohol sales all the way back in 1847. By 1916, they had completely prohibited the strong stuff, well ahead of the rest of the nation.
Over the past 10 years, Cedar Ridge has been doing their best to counter that dry spell. Today, they offer an expansive portfolio of wine, port, and spirits such as vodka, gin, brandy, rum, and fruit liqueurs, all made on their German pot still. They’ve also developed an extensive line of grain-focused whiskeys, including some unique offerings like a malted rye whiskey and a bourbon aged in one of their very own port casks. All of their products are mashed, distilled, and aged onsite.
Cedar Ridge Wheat Whiskey is made from 100% winter white wheat and aged in light char barrels. Known for a softer, milder flavor and lighter color than red wheat, white wheat comprises just 10% to 15% of all U.S.-grown wheat. The distillers describe the spirit as “the softest of our whiskeys,” and while it’s definitely on the delicate side, it’s certainly not forgettable.
Nose: The nose was a touch solventy, but opened up with some air. The aromas skew towards fruit or beer rather than the spice cabinet of bourbon or rye. Notes of apple, banana, unripe plum, and banana bread are clearly identifiable over a light caramel note reminiscent of Werther’s Original candies. It’s very light on oak.
Palate: Soft and light on the palate. The flavor is strongly wheat-y, with very limited contributions from the barrel. There’s a pleasant banana-clove phenolic character reminiscent of Belgian Wit beer as well as a somewhat steely, metallic quality. The overall impression is mild, affable, and easy-drinking.
Finish: Citrusy and sweet-sour, with a brief, tingly finish.
This is an unpretentious, light, grain-forward whiskey with a lot of fun yeast character and surprising finesse. If you’re interested in exploring whiskeys made from unusual grain bills (or just like Belgian beers!), this might be something you really enjoy. A great value at $37 for a 750ml bottle. 85 points.
Margarett Waterbury is the author of Scotch: A Complete Introduction to Scotland's Whiskies and a full-time freelance writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Whisky Advocate, Food and Wine, Spirited Magazine, Artisan Spirit, Edible Seattle, Sip Northwest, Civil Eats, Travel Oregon, Artisan Spirit, and many other publications. She is...