Home DistilleriesCedar Ridge Review: Cedar Ridge – The QuintEssential Portside

Review: Cedar Ridge – The QuintEssential Portside

by Chris Perugini

Don’t think. Just answer…

What mental image or phrase comes to mind when you see the word “Iowa”?

Cornfields? Hawkeyes? Farmers?

The answer probably wasn’t “American Single Malt,” but after this review, you won’t forget about Iowa whiskey again.

Iowa’s Cedar Ridge Distillery has been in operation since 2005. Considering just how much corn is grown in the state, it’s surprising that an Iowa distillery hasn’t made waves in the whiskey world a lot sooner. Cedar Ridge has taken a diversified approach to their whiskey operations with a variety of bourbons, ryes, and single malts in their portfolio. The distillery uses a lot of malted rye in their whiskies which adds a fun twist to their products and Master Blender Murphy Quint has taken a particular interest in putting his unique stamp on single malt whiskey while paying hommage to classic production techniques being done in Scotland. For example, the distillery uses Solera-style vats for their QuintEssential Single Malt whiskey that’s continually drawn from and topped off from batch to batch.

Solera vats at Cedar Ridge Distillery (image copyright The Whiskey Wash)

Cedar Ridge recently released a new QuintEssential limited edition expression called “Portside” that contains whiskey finished in a variety of bold cask types.

As described by Cedar Ridge:

For this release in particular, I wanted to do something with a lot of Port influence. I like to produce big, bold, meaty single malts, so I decided to utilize First-Fill Ruby Port casks in order to capture maximum Port flavor.

To round it out, I married it with single malt finished in a First-Fill Amontillado Sherry Butt and one Virgin French Oak cask. The end result is definitely Port-dominated, but it has a nice twist to it due to the Sherry and French Oak influence.

Master Blender Murphy Quint

The QuintEssential Portside is made from 100% 2-row pale malted barley aged in Cedar Ridge’s own ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in Ruby Port, Amontillado, and Virgin French oak. It carries a 6 year age statement and is bottled at a cask strength of 58.6% ABV.

Category Notes
Appearance Copper.
Nose Barley sugars, almond bark, Royal Dansk Butter Cookies, red grape must, crystalized ginger, pecan, raspberry compote, baked soft pretzel. With water, grain husks, ripe peach, allspice, and a touch of toffee sweetness.
Taste The port influence is unmistakable. Notes of cherry pie filling, street cart nuts, cocoa, white pepper, damson jam, hint of Froot Loops, mulberries. Water brings out ripe bramble fruits, mocha, and burnt sugar.
Finish The Amontillado casks jump out first with a dry nuttiness that eventually paves the way for dried dark fruits (dates, black fig), vanilla, sharp oak, cinnamon-sugar, and apple turnover. With water, some umami notes come forward as well as some sharper baking spice and mixed berry jam.
Overall Thoughts Six years is more than enough time for the ever-shifting Iowa climate to have a huge impact on this malt. There is a clear delineation of flavors from the three different finishing cask types if you’re really looking for them, but this whiskey is beautifully integrated such that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In particular, the use of French oak imparted a punchiness that counterbalances the thick, fruit-forward profile from the wine casks. Despite all the finishing that went into this one, that grainy maltiness isn’t completely drowned out either. This whiskey shows what the ASM world has to offer as it continues its massive growth in 2024 and beyond!
Total Score 89/100

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