When we last wrote about Cedar Ridge back in 2017, the focus was on their first-ever Iowa bourbon. Since then, they have gone on to produce a series of interesting spirits, including a Single Barrel Collection, Slipknot No. 9 Reserve (a blend of four to five-year-old straight rye and straight bourbon), and Sir Maple (bourbon that matures partly in casks that held 100% pure maple syrup).
Their latest project is The QuintEssential ($60), a signature blend American single malt whiskey made from 100% two-row pale malted barley. For the spirits geeks in the audience, here’s how things go: the barley is split between a peated and non-peated germination process. The peated portion is aged between four and five years in used Cedar ridge bourbon barrels. The unpeated half of the distillate is first aged in those same barrels for two to three years, then finished in barrels that previously held wine, sherry, rum, Port and brandy. Both are combined in Cedar Ridge’s solera system and bottled at 92 proof/46% alcohol.
The end result is something that looks, smells and taste an awful lot like Scotch, which is no coincidence considering that Cedar Ridge’s master distiller, Jeff Quint, and his son, head distiller Murphy, are both fans of single malts. When Jeff founded Cedar Ridge in 2005, it was the first legal distillery in Iowa since Prohibition. The Quint family traces its winemaking heritage back to 17-century Germany, and credits generations of distilling experience for their skill in blending and aging.
“While Bourbon is a natural product for us here in Iowa, both Murphy and I have shared a lifelong interest in good Scotch,” says Jeff Quint. “For nearly 15 years now, we’ve been perfecting our own American version single malt. One thing we figured out early on is you can’t rush it.”
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’re taking many single barrels of single malt and utilizing them to influence our solera vat over time. In a sense, each can be looked at as an individual ingredient for our solera, and we’re cooking to taste.”
QuintEssential has a sweet, saline-infused nose with strong floral overtones. Vivid and high-strung on the palate, it blends notes of pepper and spice with the honeyed sweetness perceived on the nose. There are hints of peat on the finish, mixed with echoes of tea and molasses. This complex, high-quality whiskey would make a terrific Rob Roy, and might easily pass for a Speyside malt in a blind tasting.
Mark Spivak specializes in wine, spirits, food, restaurants and culinary travel. He is the author of several books on distilled spirits and the cocktail culture, as well as three novels. His first novel, Friend of the Devil, has been re-released on Amazon in print, e-book and audio book formats.