Whiskey Review: Did We Sleep On 2021’s Best American Single Malt?

Cedar Ridge is probably best known in whiskey circles for their Iowa Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It’s become a standard-bearer for the corn-rich state and taken home a lot of big whiskey awards over the years. While that whiskey is great, we’re going to focus on a newer offering from the brand that we basically slept on last year, an American single malt.

Cedar Ridge’s American Single Malt The Quintessential won “Best American Single Malt” at the John Barleycorn Awards in 2021. That’s a pretty prestigious award given that the judges are some of the top industry folks working today — both in production and in journalism. Since I had a bottle sitting on my desk, I knew I had to get into it and see if the whiskey lived up to the hype. Let’s dive in and see what all the fuss is about.

Also Read: The Top 5 UPROXX Scotch Whisky Posts of 2021

Cedar Ridge American Single Malt Whiskey The QuintEssential Signature Blend (Batch no. 007)

Cedar Ridge The Quintessential
Cedar Ridge

ABV: 46%

Average Price: $60

The Whiskey:

This whiskey is all about a grain-to-glass experience. The juice is made with 100 percent 2-Row Pale Malted Barley (the same stuff used in some of the biggest craft beers) from up in Saskatchewan. The whiskey is then matured in ex-bourbon barrels for an undisclosed term. That whiskey is then finished in a combination of brandy, rum, wine, port, and sherry barrels before it’s vatted.

The whiskey’s blend is then made using the solera method — where the vat is never fully emptied before the next barrel is added.

Tasting Notes:

The nose is immediately full of bright fruit with a peach and pear vibe that leans into a malty banana bread with plenty of butter, cinnamon, and walnut next to a touch of Almond Joy (but the good ones from a high-end shop). The palate is soft and subtle with hints of spiced malted gingersnaps, light cream soda vibes (maybe a light sasparilla), and a mellow and creamy base of chocolate that’s not dark but not milky either. The mid-palate has a nice sweetness that’s slightly apple adjacent with an apricot hint that mellows into a final note of chewy toffees with rum-raisin lurking on the very backend.

The Bottle:

The bottle is a classic Scottish single malt bottle, similar to the classics from Diageo’s line. The label is full of information but clear on the essentials — what you’re drinking, proof, etc.

Bottom Line:

This is a pretty damn fine sip of whiskey. This could, arguably, stand up to some pretty big name malts from Scotland in any taste test. It’s incredibly easy to sip neat but really shines with a drop or two of water with more of that chocolate, coconut, ginger, and malt coming out to play with this apricot jamminess that’s just delightful.


90/100 — This is pretty nice. It’s not wildly enthralling or game-changing. But as an American Single Malt… maybe it is? It’s incredibly nuanced and feels like it could stand up to any unpeated scotch.

Is it the “best American single malt” of 2021? It’s certainly very high on the list, and I can see this winning the day easily in a blind taste test.