Review: Whiskeys of Cedar Ridge – Iowa Bourbon, Wheat, Rye, Malted Rye, Single Malt

cedar_ridge_rye_whiskey_bottle_large-rgb-large

As the first distillery in the state since Prohibition, Iowa’s Cedar Ridge makes everything from gin to rum to apple brandy. Today we look at five of the company’s whiskeys (it makes at least eight), which are all distilled on site (not sourced) but which are bottled without age statements. Cedar Ridge makes heavy use of Iowa-grown corn in its products, but not all are corn-based, and less is said about the sourcing of its other grains. (Though notably the company also makes wine, from estate-grown grapes.)

Without further ado, let’s dive into this selection of whiskeys.

Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon Whiskey – A bourbon made with 75% corn, 14% rye, and 12% malted barley. Youthful on the nose, with a sharp granary and fresh corn character, it features notes of tobacco, barrel char, green pepper, and black pepper. The finish offers some caramel corn sweetness, smoky notes, and a vaguely vegetal encore. 80 proof. B- / $39

Cedar Ridge Wheat Whiskey – Made from 100% malted wheat — technically making this a single malt whiskey. Light in color and fragrant on the nose, this is a delightful spirit, gossamer thin but loaded with intense floral aromas. On the palate the grain is quite clear, but a moderate sweetness keeps things moving, leading to more notes of white flowers, honey, graham crackers, and just a hint of cinnamon. The finish is soothing and sweet enough to balance out the aromatics that come before. 80 proof. B+ / $40

Cedar Ridge Rye Whiskey – This is a “traditional” rye made with a 70% “toasted rye” mash and bottled overproof. Racy but also quite woody, its big clove and raw ginger notes lead to a rather sweet finish, with notes of cinnamon-heavy apple pie and ripe banana. The spicy notes are lingering as the finish fades, along with a rather pungent Madeira character. Interesting, flavor-forward stuff. 115.2 proof. B / $43

Cedar Ridge Malted Rye Whiskey – An unusual whiskey made of 51% malted rye, 34% rye, 12% corn, and 3% malted barley. The result is a gentler spin on rye (though this is just 43% abv if you’re comparing to the regular rye above), which takes that apple pie note and filters it through more supple notes of graham crackers, toasted marshmallow, coconut, and dried banana. Of all the whiskeys in this roundup, this one is the most refined and the most complex, a spirit that is clearly youthful and which still offers fresh granary notes up front, but which manages to round out its sharp and rough edges in style. 86 proof. A- / $40

Cedar Ridge Single Malt Whiskey – This is a classic American single malt (malted barley) release, but with few of the expected fixins. The nose is moderately woody, studded with grain, and lightly spiced. On the palate, caramel makes a surprising impact, with overtones of evergreen and a heavy chocolate note. This cocoa character lingers on the finish, giving it a dessert-like character you rarely find in domestic single malts. Well done. 80 proof. B+ / $50

crwine.com

Review: Koloa Hawaiian Rums, Coffee Liqueur, and Ready-to-Drink Cocktails – Complete Lineup

koloa-rum-all_5-md-large

The tiny Hawaiian island of Kauai is home to Koloa Rum, a small operation with a surprisingly robust line of rums, a coffee liqueur, and ready-to-drink cocktails. All five rums are made from the mash of raw cane sugar, double distilled in a copper pot still, and cut with filtered water from Mount Waialeale. That said, there’s no aging or other information on how the white, gold, and dark rums differ from one another.

Here’s a look at the entire Koloa lineup of (5) rums, (1) liqueur, and (3) premixed cocktail products. Whew!

Koloa Kauai White Hawaiian Rum – Lots of vanilla, chocolate, and coconut notes give this the character of a flavored rum, with unexpected coffee notes emerging in time. Moderate sweetness gives way on the palate to notes of hazelnut and a lingering coffee note on the back end. Very easy to sip on — but not at all what I was expecting from a white rum. 80 proof. B / $27

Koloa Kauai Gold Hawaiian Rum – There’s more fruit on this one, but more astringency, too, particularly on the sharper nose. All told this rum has a more classic (and youthful) construction, with some dusky coconut husk notes and a somewhat raw, ethanol-heavy character, but on the whole it’s a passable mixer. 80 proof. B- / $27

Koloa Kauai Dark Hawaiian Rum – Heavy on notes of molasses and coffee, with chocolate overtones. Like any good dark rum, it’s built with lumbering sweetness in mind, rich and chewy and appropriately dessert-like. That said, it’s relatively light on its feet, but short on complexity. 80 proof. B / $27

Koloa Kauai Spice Hawaiian Rum – Yes, it’s “spice,” not “spiced.” Said to be a response to other “oversweetened spiced rums,” but Koloa’s rendition feels amply sweet to me, studded with cinnamon, cloves, honey, cola, and tons of vanilla. It comes together a lot like a Vanilla Coke, or perhaps a Vanilla Diet Coke, with lightly artificial overtones on an otherwise rousing, somewhat fiery finish. Surprisingly, it’s overproof, not under, making it a solid mixer, for sure. 88 proof. B+ / $27

Koloa Kauai Coconut Hawaiian Rum – Heavy coconut, as expected, here backed with a touch of banana (particularly on the finish), and vanilla milkshake notes. Unctuous and rolling on the palate, it’s got ample (but not overblown) sweetness, hints of pineapple, and — as you’d expect (and desire) — plenty of coconut. As good as any other coconut rum out there. 80 proof. A- / $27

Koloa Hawaiian Kauai Coffee Liqueur – This is a collaboration with Kauai Coffee Company, and it’s a robust and lightly-sweetened but otherwise quite pure expression of coffee in classically alcoholic form. The finish finds a surprise in some slightly peppery notes, with nutty and dark chocolate overtones. The whole affair comes together quite beautifully and with sophistication. 68 proof. A- / $27

Koloa Hawaiian Mai Tai Cocktail – Gatorade-green in color, this offers a pungent, overwhelming almond character on the nose, then segues to a vague tropical character with lemon/lime overtones. Somewhat bitter on the finish, the citrus notes veer toward notes of bitter lime zest. 34 proof. C+ / $15 (1 liter)

Koloa Hawaiian Rum Punch – Grapefruit and pineapple are heavy here, with a squeeze of lemon and a touch of vanilla. It’s a credible punch, but quite light on its feet, with a light nuttiness that lingers on the finish. Perfectly sippable, though it’s quite low in alcohol, making it feel a bit frivolous. 20 proof. B / $15 (1 liter)

Koloa Hawaiian Pineapple Passion Rum Cocktail – Another simple punch, this one punching up the fruit component with a stronger pineapple and passion fruit character, giving it a slightly floral edge. What you think of when you imagine a drink with an umbrella in it, it’s a slurp-’em-down beverage that will offend no one, though I think the standard Rum Punch is a bit better balanced. 20 proof. B / $15 (1 liter)

koloarum.com

Review: Zumbida Mango Aguas Frescas

zumbida

Looks like we now have not one but two “hard” Mexican frescas available in bottled form. Following in the footsteps of Hard Frescos comes Zumbida, which is not the same as Zumba, but will make your body move just the same.

Zumbida is made by MillerCoors, not in Mexico but in Milwaukee. It’s a malt beverage with flavoring added — mango, in this case. (No other flavors are available so far.) As such, I’m not clear what distinguishes this from a “hard soda” or any other fruity malt beverage. There is some Spanish on the label, at least.

Anyway, the taste is fine — fruity, a little funky with that vegetal malt liquorness, and quite effervescent. Imagine an Orange Crush with a lightly tropical spin and you’ve got the flavor down — it’s not quite mango, but not straight citrus, either. Could I drink one of these on the beach in Cozumel? I could. But would I drink one on the beach in Cozumel? I would not.

4.2% abv.

B- / $9 per six-pack / zumbida.com

Review: Beaujolais Wines of Georges DuBoeuf, 2015 Vintage

georges-duboeuf-domaine-les-chenevieres-macon-villages

Georges DuBoeuf is an icon of France’s Beaujolais, and every year around this time the winery’s new releases hit the market. Today we look at six of them, including two offerings from DuBoeuf’s Domaine selection — smaller producers owned by the winery and still bottled under their own labels.

2015 Georges DuBoeuf Macon-Villages – Brisk and acidic, this wine is loaded with lemon and grapefruit notes, delving from there into a lightly herbal character, plus some light notes of brown sugar. The finish is heavy with slate notes, and lightly bittersweet, which dials back the impact of the finish a bit. B+ / $20

2015 Georges DuBoeuf Pouilly-Fuisse – Lovely fruit and light mineral notes find balance here atop a moderate to bold body that offers distinct buttery notes. Relatively California-esque in style, it builds to a vanilla-scented crescendo. The finish is a bit too brooding making it a bit overpowering on its own, but it does stand up well to food. B / $35

2015 Georges DuBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages – The focus is squarely on fruit here, but it’s dialed back unlike, say, a Beaujolais Nouveau’s brash and overpowering jamminess. Light cherry and currant meld with fresher, juicier strawberry notes, dusted with a bit of lavender and a touch of orange peel. A solid wine at a great value. A- / $13

2015 Georges DuBoeuf Fleurie – Youthful, with a simple structure that focuses on dried plums, violets, and overtones of saddle leather. The body is fine but nothing special, round and a bit flabby with a gumminess that tends to stick to the sides of the mouth. B- / $22

2015 Emile Beranger Pouilly-Fuisse – A fine Pouilly-Fuisse, offering ample minerality, to the point of light saltiness, plus overtones of melon and hints of roasted meats. Notes of slate and bouqeut garni alternate on the finish, which give the wine an uncommon complexity. B+ / $40

2015 Domaine les Chenevieres Macon-Villages – A gorgeous wine, loaded with notes of lemon, quince, and tangerine, and layered with alternating notes of brown butter, baking spice, and a hint of woody vanilla. A perfectly balanced body kicks out floral notes and a touch of white pepper from time to time, all beautiful accompaniments to the fruit-forward main event. Beautiful on its own but a standout with lighter fare. A / $22

duboeuf.com

Review: 2014 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir Marlborough

cloudy-bay-pinot-noir-nv-bottle-shot-large

Cloudy Bay’s latest pinot noir is a simplistic affair, quite acidic up front but lacking much structure underneath. Instead of focusing on fresh fruit, the wine showcases dull notes of forest floor, indistinct vegetation, and just a small amount dried, almost Madeirized berries. The finish is surprisingly astringent but otherwise unremarkable. That said, the acidity helps it to work well enough as a mealtime companion, but on its own I feel like all I really experience are its faults.

B- / $35 / cloudybay.co.nz

Review: 2010 Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva

marques-dr-reserva-2010-large

A bit flabby for a Rioja, its fruit undercut by dull notes of licorice, leather, and burnt butter. Some quiet aromatics emerge with a little time exposed to air, but the finish never really materializes, going out on a somewhat gummy note that evokes burnt matches and roasted vegetables. That said, it’s mostly innocuous. Best (by far) with food.

B- / $20 / marquesderiscal.com

Review: Rioja Wines of Hacienda Lopez de Haro, 2016 Releases

 

lopez-de-haro-rioja-large

Bodega Classica Hacienda Lopez de Haro is a classic producer of traditional wines in Rioja, spanning a variety of wines representative of the region. Today we look at three Rioja reds, a 100% tempranillo, and an older Crianza and Reserva bottling, both blends. Let’s dig in.

2015 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rioja Tempranillo – This is a young, fresh 100% tempranillo (a “cosecha” wine with 4 months in barrel), that is pedal-to-the-metal fruit from start to finish. Think strawberry jam, with a touch of cinnamon, yet still quite dry and balanced, with a surprisingly gentle finish. Definitely worth a look. B+ / $10

2013 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rioja Crianza – This is a bold wine for a Rioja, forthright and powerful, loaded with fruit-forward character you’d expect from a California red. That said, the bold red berries, plus notes of licorice candy, cinnamon, and cloves all come together to make for a cohesive wine that finishes strong, and which works quite well with food. B+ / $12

2009 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rioja Reserva – In the early stages of oxidation, this reserva is already austere and starting to decline from its peak. The nose of tobacco and baking spice is engaging, but the moderately astringent body keeps the spices in check. What emerges on the finish is more of a dried herbal character, with ample licorice and Madeira-like notes. B- / $13

bodegaclassica.com

-->