Cedar Ridge Distillery: One Man’s Original Dream for Putting Iowa on the Map Leads to Distillery of the Year

Jeff Quint and me 

Jeff Quint traces his family back nine generations with a history of making wine, brandy, distilling and grain farming.  The winery that his great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Gerlaci Quint, started in the 1700s, which is located on the Moselle River in Germany, is still producing wine today.

In the 1880s, his great-grandfather, Johann Quint, moved the family from Wintrich, Germany, to eastern Iowa, and that’s where the story of farming and distilling continued.  In 2005, he and his wife, Laurie, founded Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery, Iowa’s first and oldest distillery, and solidified the family’s legacy in craft distilling.  That legacy was solidified in April of this year when Cedar Ridge beat out more than 300 distilleries representing 44 of the 50 states and 18 different countries to win Distillery of the Year from the American Distilling Institute.

In Jeff’s way, he’s very non-descript about the honor.  He states it simply – “It’s about authenticity. It’s about using the corn of the state.  It’s all about grain to glass. And, it’s all about crating micro-distilled small batch spirits dedicated to craftsmanship.”   He’s passionate.  His frustration of the fact that Iowa is the number one corn producing state, but had no bourbon, resulted in the founding of Cedar Ridge.  He has a Midwest mentality — do the best you can do with what nature provides and never, ever sacrifice quality for quantity.

Sounds simple? Right, but there’s much more to the story.  Swisher-based Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery has a mission to be focused on whiskey with an emphasis on controlling the process from start to finish.  Cedar Ridge not only grows its own corn, but it also mashes, ferments, distills, ages and bottles the product with a focus on letting nature run its course with non-climate controlled aging in barrels stored in a natural environment.

The production capacity is currently at 1,000 barrels, but has the capacity to double in the future.  The whiskeys are double distilled to 148-150 proof, resulting in a purer end-product.

I had the chance to try the Cedar Ridge Bourbon, Cedar Ridge Malted Rye Whiskey and the Cedar Ridge Single Malt Whiskey.


Cedar Ridge Bourbon – my husband is the bourbon expert in our family, but I loved how easy it is to sip this bourbon – notes of caramel, honey, anise and cedar are well balanced making it very approachable.  The blend is 74% corn (as we say in wine, it is estate grown from the family farm), 14% toasted rye and 12% malted barley.

Cedar Ridge Malted Rye – lots of notes of toast, smoke, spice and berry.  Another easy drinker with a blend of 51% malted rye, 34% rye, 12% corn and 3% malted barley.

Cedar Ridge Single Malt Whiskey – another smooth, fruity and malty expression of a great scotch with notes of vanilla, honey, spice and a nuttiness.  The blend is 100% malted barley and there is a 3-step aging process, which includes primary and secondary cast married with solera.

Cedar Ridge sells more than 20,000 cases per year.  It’s available to 90 percent of the U.S. population in 15 states including Iowa — and Canada and the Caribbean.  It’s the No. 2 seller in Iowa next to Maker’s Mark.

Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery offers daily tours and tastings, and wine and spirits are for sale on site.

It was a pleasure to taste a true expression from “grain to glass” and experience the craft expertise of why Cedar Ridge Distillery brought home the gold this year.