The Cedar Ridge Malted Rye Whiskey is very rare and it is unlike any other whiskey I’ve tried. Not only is it the only Malted Rye Whiskey that I’ve seen or tasted, but I can only find one other US-made malted rye whiskey mentioned on the internet. The others include Old Pogue’s Five Fathers Pure Rye Malt Whiskey and Anchor Distilling Company’s Old Potrero Single Malt Whiskey. Good luck finding either one in the Midwest. Cedar Ridge’s whiskey was introduced by Cedar Ridge Distillery back in September of 2014.
The malted rye whiskey category is one of the official “top level” whiskey categories allowed by the TTB and must be made of not less than 51 percent malted rye, stored at not more than 125 proof and put into charred new oak containers. This particular malted rye is all rye whiskey, though it has less than 100% malted rye whiskey. Rye whiskey has a long tradition in American history. Did you know that George Washington was by far the largest rye whiskey distiller in the Colonies? His still house has been rebuilt on the Mount Vernon grounds and from the photos it is large enough that many commercial craft whiskey distillers would be envious. If you are in the D.C. area you can even pick up a bottle now that the whiskey is being made once again. Over time, people had largely forgotten about rye whiskey and they had totally forgotten about its even rarer sibling malted rye whiskey.
The Malted Rye Whiskey is available in 750 ml bottles and comes in at 86 proof. About 65 cases were produced in the first production run. The price is about $38. Like barley, rye can be malted and used to provide the enzymes necessry to help break down the starch into sugar in the mash. It is the sugar that feeds the yeast and drives fermentation.
So how does it taste? I skipped a blind taste test because the nose is so unique that I am pretty sure that I can identify this whiskey from a foot away with my eyes closed. The predominant aroma when nosing the glass is a combination of girl scout shortbread cookies and fresh rye bread. There is some typical heat and sharp spice from the rye when drinking it down, but there is little to no burn. Overall, this is easier to drink than some bourbons. I think that a lot of whiskey drinkers will appreciate the freshly baked bread quality in this whiskey. Another aroma that I definitely pick up is a yeast overtone, somewhat similar to some European beers, including high-yeast Belgians.
It is too bad that the release coincided with the Templeton Rye kerfuffle. The timing and distraction caused by all of the negative press focused on Templeton may have resulted in this Iowa-made product not getting the attention that it deserved. I know that I was totally distracted! Pick up a bottle the next time you spot on one the shelf. There is no guarantee that there will be more.