Cedar Ridge is now packing up for delivery to the Alcohol Beverages Division (Iowa’s government-run wholesaler) its most interesting release yet: a five-year barrel-aged 86 proof “Reserve” bourbon. This bourbon was originally intended to be distilled during the summer of 2008, but after the massive flood during that summer destroyed much of downtown Cedar Rapids and the Cedar Ridge Distillery operation and still, the team had to scramble to get the still rewired, drained of flood water, and cleaned out. After the still was restarted, this was the bourbon that was distilled and barreled. This bourbon has been tucked away, first at the old facility and later at the current facility, for five years now. The existence of this 5-year bourbon has been a closely guarded secret and only recently has word of its existence begun to leak.
This bourbon will be sold as part of a blockbuster offering of two additional products in a three-pack of 375 ml bottles: the 86% proof Reserve Bourbon Whiskey, an 80 proof 100% Wheat Whiskey, and an 80 proof Single Malt Blended Whiskey.
The 100% wheat whiskey was mashed and distilled at Cedar Ridge in very late 2011. I am told that it is very soft and delicate, easy to drink, and has already proved very popular at some recent tastings at Cedar Ridge. This whiskey will eventually be put into 750 ml bottles like the rest of the regular releases.
The Single Malt Whiskey was created by combining small amounts of many of Cedar Ridge Single Malts that have been finished in a series of unique finishing barrels. These include a Sauternes cask finish, a French Oak finish, and a Double American Oak finish. All three of these unique finishes will be separately released for sale in November of 2013 in 750 ml bottles. They will be joined by a heavy peated single malt.
Finally, Cedar Ridge is releasing just in time for the Holiday gift-giving season a Brandy version of the triple gift pack. This gift pack will contain 375 ml bottles of its regular Brandy, Apple Brandy, and new Pear Brandy. Not only are these interesting products in their own right, but with the winter cooking and cocktail season ahead I can imagine many uses for these different brandies. All of these products should be available for sale at the distillery sometime during the week beginning October 31st.
Why am I so excited about the five-year Reserve? The release of this five-year Reserve is proof that Iowa whiskey is now going to be able to compete on a more level playing field with the big boys of Bourbon. No unaged whiskey, regardless of how good the ingredients are and how carefully it has been distilled, can complete with a competently made bourbon whiskey that has aged in new oak barrels for five years. The same thing is true for a two or even three-year whiskey, which is all that Iowa’s distilleries have been able to offer to date. However, many would agree with me that whiskeys really start to mellow out and develop the complex flavors and aromas that they are famous for at the five-year mark. Some bourbons go on to continue to develop complex flavor profiles for many more years or even decades, while others top out, having surrendered too much to the angels. I will have to wait until I taste some before weighing in on how well this whiskey will do against the competition, but I am certainly hopeful that it will do well.
The special finished single malts and the 100% wheat whiskey are in many respects equally exciting and for wheat whiskey or Scotch whisky lovers, perhaps even more interesting. I will certainly want to get my hands on as much of these new whiskeys as I can. I will also post my impressions.