When we last wrote about Cedar Ridge in 2017, the focus was on their very first Iowa Bourbon. Since then, they have continued to produce a series of interesting spirits, including a Single Barrel Collection, Slipknot No. 9 Reserve (a blend of pure four- to five-year-old rye and pure bourbon) and Sir Maple (bourbon that matures in part in barrels containing 100% pure maple syrup).
Their latest project is The QuintEssential ($ 60), an American single malt whiskey blend made from 100% two-row pale malted barley. For the geeky minds of the public, here’s how it goes: Barley is split between a peaty and unpeaty germination process. The peaty part is aged between four and five years in used Cedar Ridge bourbon barrels. The unpeated half of the distillate is first aged in these same barrels for two to three years, then finished in barrels that previously held wine, sherry, rum, Port and brandy. The two are combined in Cedar Ridge’s solera system and bottled at 92 proof / 46% alcohol.
The end result is something that looks, smells and tastes a lot like scotch, which is no coincidence considering that Cedar Ridge Master Distiller Jeff Quint and his son Chief Distiller Murphy are both fans of single malts. When Jeff founded Cedar Ridge in 2005, it was Iowa’s first legal distillery since Prohibition. The Quint family traces their wine heritage back to 17th century Germany and attributes generations of distillation experience to their blending and aging skills.
“Although bourbon is a natural product for us here in Iowa, Murphy and I share a long-standing interest in good scotch,” says Jeff Quint. “For almost 15 years we have been perfecting our own American version single malt. One thing we understood from the start is that you can’t rush.
And while the use of the solera is definitely unconventional, the Quints swear by it. “Our system is the best of both worlds,” says Murphy. “We take a lot of single malt casks and use them to influence our solera vat over time. In a sense, each can be viewed as an individual ingredient for our solera, and we cook to taste.
QuintEssential has a sweet and saline nose with strong floral notes. Lively and nervous on the palate, it combines notes of pepper and spices with honeyed sweetness perceived on the nose. There are notes of peat on the finish, mixed with echoes of tea and molasses. This complex, high-quality whiskey would make an excellent Rob Roy and could easily pass for a Speyside malt on blind tasting.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His first novel, Friend of the devil, has been republished on Amazon in print, e-book and audiobook format.