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Review: Cedar Ridge Bourbon Whiskey

Cedar Ridge bourbon is made by Cedar Ridge Vineyards & Distillery in Swisher, Iowa. The distillery began distilling bourbon in July 2010. All of the distillation and aging is done in small batches, and aged on premises. The distillery also produces a number of brandies, grappa, and liquers in their distilled spirits portfolio.

Let’s take a closer look at this Iowa bourbon.

Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon Whiskey, 40% abv (80 Proof), $37/bottle
Color: Light Amber/Golden/Honey
Nose: Anise, clove, juniper, pineapple, golden raisin, and cedar shavings. Youthful and bright.
Palate: A bit flat but pleasant – rock candy sweetness, clove, and nutmeg.
Finish: Juniper, clove, wood resin grip, and honey sweetness.
Overall: Cedar Ridge is a promising craft product. One sniff and sip and it’s clear the distillery is going for a lighter, brighter flavor profile – much like Koval out of Chicago. From that standpoint it’s unique and different from the onset. The distillery’s grappa and brandy roots are present as well. Frankly I am surprised this is 75% corn in the mashbill – the green rye notes come through well on both the nose and the palate. It’s certainly young, but that funky new make “craft” thing is not present here (that’s a good thing!). The distillate is clean and well made, but it needs more age and proof to add needed depth and richness. I am however intrigued and looking forward to future releases of this bourbon.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 7.6 (Good)

13 Comments

  1. sam k says:

    Well, let me start by letting these distillers know that 80 proof as an accepted default can be suicide. We are not Canadians. Tailor the ABV to be what the product itself requires to be tasty and successful. There are many white and short-aged whiskeys that (ahem) dare to broach the legal minimum and deliver the experience that was intended or could be hoped for.

    90 proof and above should be aspirational goals that validate the asking price. How many enthusiasts in general are impressed with an 80 proof bottling of anything from anyone?

  2. John H says:

    According to my math, this is a 2 year old bourbon. I’m not sure that’s even worth reviewing. In fact, I can’t imagine any bourbon less than 6 years old being seriously considered for anything other than mixing with soda pop (gross). Have you ever run across a bourbon that bucks my notion?

  3. Texas says:

    Right, on, sam k!

  4. BMc says:

    Wild Turkey is thought to be 4-years-and-a-day.

    Actually, it’s just hearsay from one guy who asked the master distiller (and I can’t find the link), so it’s, what, thirdhand news?

  5. John H – you wouldn’t be far off with saying that “many” of these young ones under 2 years aren’t a bit lacking, but certainly not all. Ranger Creek jumps off the page as being one that’s young, but good stuff.

    Also, while Cedar Ridge rated where I rated it, this is quality juice. Some more age will do it well, but there’s great “bones” here.

    SamK -I agree – 90 is the new 80…at least.

  6. John H says:

    I dunno – $37 for a 2 year old 80 proof non-Kentucky bourbon seems kinda nutty to me. But I’m glad I have you to do the tasting for me, because this is something I would have never taken a chance on in a million years. It would be interesting to see how this bourbon changes with age, so I hope you do this one an annual update. Cheers!

  7. Gdub says:

    Wait a minute, I thought whiskey had to be made in Kentucky to be called “Bourbon?”

  8. Gdub, that is a common misconception. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S. as long as it follows some specific guidelines. It must be at least 51% corn, must be distilled at no more than 160 proof, must be barreled at no more than 125 proof (they cut with water to get it there), and must be aged in new charred oak barrels (American White Oak is most common but not required). It cannot have any additives, and it also must be bottled at least 80 proof. So as long as distilleries are following those guidelines they may call it Bourbon.

  9. stephen king says:

    has anyone who is new to distilling bourbon run into a problem with local codes requiring sprinklering the building where the distilling and the storage of aging barrels takes place? NFPA says that 40% alcohol is a flammable mixture but all my heat sources are electric (no open flames), all containers are enclosed, and there are no sources of ignition in the storage area. I need ammunition to fight the bureaucrats.

  10. Hobbs says:

    I tried the Cedar Ridge after I read your review. I like it and that’s all that matters to me. I shared a drink with my friends and they liked it also. Thanks for your work.

  11. Sal says:

    @Stephen King, be happy if all they want is sprinklers…if the NFPA says its flammable you could end up buying intrinsically safe electrical equipment. Just add a zero onto the price of everything you already installed and you’ll be in the ballpark.

    http://www.nfpa.org/assets/files/pdf/NecC5.pdf

  12. Sturgeon Bay says:

    Being a native Iowan transplanted to the east coast, I jumped at the chance to try a “home grown” spirit. After all, what better place to source your main ingredient, corn, than the state that produces more of it than almost any place in the world. I was not disappointed. I’ll be happy to wait for the 90 proof, but until then I will sit back and enjoy the smooth refreshment that Cedar Ridge currently provides.

  13. Michael S says:

    Cedar Ridge recently did release a “reserve” bourbon as part of a holiday pack of exclusive whiskeys and has now announced it will start selling it in 375 ml bottles soon. It has a 5 year age statement on it and is released at 86 proof. I tasted some over the holidays and thought it was quite a big improvement in depth of flavor over the standard release. Jason, I’d love to see what you think if you could get your hands on some.