Cedar Ridge Distillery was founded in 2005 and was the first licensed distillery in Iowa since Prohibition. The distillery initially produced wine and a number of other spirits before producing whiskey. Cedar Ridge Distillery launched their first bourbon in 2010 to pay homage to the fact that Iowa is the largest corn producing state in the Union.
*Their small batch Iowa Bourbon is normally bottled at 80 proof. In addition single barrel barrel proof versions can often be found ranging up to 115 proof. This small batch sample provided to us from Cedar Ridge was bottled at a slightly higher 100 proof.
Lots of corn, grain, and new oak. There’s a tingling of ethanol that makes its presence known, but not enough to be to unpleasant. While this is aged for a minimum of four years, it comes off as a whiskey that hasn’t spent a ton of time in the barrel due to the lack of depth displayed in its weak nose.
Corn, light vanilla, fruit jam, a hint of pear, and oak. The palate is more interesting than the nose, however all of the flavors present are very light and you really have to hunt them out. The ethanol that was clearly present in the nose isn’t present, and this bourbon ends up drinking lower than the 100 proof it clocks in at.
White pepper, light fruits, vanilla, and fresh wood are all present at the start of the finish. These notes then fade away to just the white pepper and fresh wood, which linger for a short period. It’s simple, short, and leaves an unmemorable impression.
As we pointed out in our 2016 The Year in Bourbon article, more and more bourbons from upstart distillers arrive on the market every year. Cedar Ridge’s whiskeys have the distinction of being produced in Iowa, using Iowa raised corn, and from the first licensed distillery in the state since Prohibition. However since it first opened, there are now eight other whiskey distilleries that operate in the state.
What’s unique about this specific bourbon is that it was bottled 20 proof points higher than the standard 80 proof version you can find in stores. While I always prefer to taste bourbons around 95-115 proof range - since I find more flavor usually shines through - this version of Cedar Ridge is lacking in distinguishing flavor characteristics that I was expecting to find. It really makes me wonder why Cedar Ridge chose to settle on 80 proof for their wide release.
As is often the case when reviewing a bourbon from a new distillery, you’re paying a premium as the distillery tries to establish itself. I pointed this out in my review of 2Bar Bourbon from Seattle and OYOfrom Columbus, and the same can be said for this bourbon. At $40, this is priced slightly less than the $50 price tag you see from many other young distilleries. That said, that doesn’t mean it represents a good value for the bourbon found inside the bottle. For example, the Big Bottom Single Barrel I reviewed was also priced at $40 and offers a much deeper and tastier drinking experience. In this case, $40 is a lot to pay for a bourbon that tastes much younger than it really is.
Youthful in appearance and in taste, this bourbon doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowded space it plays in.
Even though this is aged a minimum of four years in 53 gallon barrels, this bourbon exhibits an extreme youth that tends to show from its color all the way through the actual whiskey in the glass. The flavors present are characteristically youthful, however don’t mistake youthful for bad either. While it’s certainly below my standard for a $40 bourbon, it’s also better than the products coming out of other young distilleries such as Cleveland Whiskey, for example. There are a lot of other distilleries releasing bourbon and unfortunately, this release of Iowa Bourbon doesn’t stand out enough from the rest of the crowd.
With Iowa’s cold winters, hot summers, and abundance of corn at its disposal, Cedar Ridge has all of the ingredients necessary to try to fine tune a memorable small batch bourbon from its rickhouses. They have started to release higher aged bourbons such as their Reserve Bourbon which is aged five years. It will be interesting revisit their Iowa Bourbon Whiskey over time as they’re able to increase the average age of the bourbon used.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Cedar Ridge. We thank them for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.