Whiskey Review: Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon (Barrel 114)

Way back in May of 2012, I decided to go on a road trip to Iowa. I'd heard of this little winery near Cedar Rapids that had expanded into bourbon. Being the type of guy who is willing to take almost any excuse to jump in the car and taste bourbon, it was only a matter of finding the right time. For whatever reason May 12th was that time. how do I know? Well, I happened to tweet about it. I remember it as a fun trip. Up at five am and there by noon.

Saturday, May 12, 2012 5:22 am: "Up early to drive to Iowa. The plan is to visit @CedarRidge4 Distillery and Winery today. Should be fun."

Saturday, May 12, 2012 7:48 am: "Can't wait to get there... driving through Iowa is sooo boring."

(With as much as I enjoy it's alcoholic progeny, I get a little impatient driving through endless corn fields.)  

Saturday, May 12, 2012 10:58 am: "If everyone in Iowa is this nice, I feel sorry for them. I've never been treated more rudely. I hope this day gets better."

(Remember, when a truck crowds the line, it's best to not park in the middle of your spot, even if you have a tiny car...this guy wanted to fight.)

Saturday, May 12, 2012 11:45 am: "So far @CedarRidge4 has redeemed this Iowa trip for me. Knowledgeable tour guide. Very nice folks at the tasting bar. And good whiskies."

But there was redemption (and whiskey) at the end of the drive so all was well. I took the tour. It wasn't long, but the young guy who gave it was immensely knowlegeable about the product that was being made. We saw the mashing, the fermentation, the stills. Then we turned around and saw the aging product. 

I said it was small.

I listened as he answered questions about the barrels, what each piece of equipment did, the water—reverse osmosis filtered for parts of the process, distilled pure for others—in case you were curious,  etc. Then the tour was over and we headed to the tasting bar.

This is a beautiful place. You know how winery's are almost always beautiful places where you could imagine people getting married? Yeah, this is one of those. The tasting bar was the type of place where the people are amazingly nice and everything tastes just a little bit better. Because of that, and because I had just driven four hours to get there, I picked up a bottle. 

Then I beer tasted my way around Iowa, stopping at a nearby brewery for a sample. Then to Des Moines to have supper and a sampler flight. Then to Ames for my hotel. All in all it was a fun trip. 

On Monday of that same week, I cracked open the bottle of Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon. 

Monday, May 14, 2012 8:25 pm: "Drinking my 1st glass of @CedarRidge4 bourbon. Initial thought: reminds me a lot of Big Red Gum. Looking forward to more exploration."

It was ok, but not as good as I remembered sitting in the tasting room. 

Damn that lovely ambiance. 

And it's been sitting on my shelf ever since. Every once in a while I pour another glass, I see if it's still as I remember it, then I put it back hoping to find a use for it. I used it for making a pork marinade yesterday, it paired really nicely with a lovely chenin blanc (I took a sip before mixing in the other ingredients). And tonight, I decided that I finally needed to review it.

Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon

Specs: Barrel Number 114, Bottle 298

Nose: Grains with a hint of sweetness. A deeply pervading, though well incorporated, ethanol scent in every sniff, even after a while in the glass.

Mouth: Silky texture with a delicate flavor of dried corn.

Finish: Bitter tannins, very drying in the back of the throat, fading to the same aftertaste as the Big Red gum I chewed when I was a kid.


Overall: I'm not a fan of this bourbon. It misses almost all the notes I look for in a bourbon. It has almost no vanilla or caramel and very little spice. It does showcase the corn very well. And maybe being from the middle of corn country, that's the point.

I'd pass on this one, but your milage may vary. It does look to be a single barrel after all. So give it a shot, and if you're in Eastern Iowa, I recommend a visit. It's a lovely place and worth the stop.