Iowa distiller marries local grain with magic

SWISHER, IA -- Iowa is the nation's leading grain-producing state. Now, someone finally is putting the stuff to good use.

Jeff Quint, owner and distiller at the Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery near Cedar Rapids in Johnson County -- the state's only winery/distillery, is producing whiskey from 100% malted Iowa barley, believed to be the state's first legal such whiskey.

 If the stuff were being made in Scotland, he points out, he would be able to call it single malt scotch.

His initial goal is to produce just a few barrels of the scotch-like spirit to handle local demand, with releases planned for August and November.

Quint already has been producing such spirits as Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon (70-75% corn, with the remainder split evenly between rye and malted barley), Clearheart Triple Distilled Fruit & Grain Spirits and Griff’s Cowboy Whiskey.

Quint says of the Cedar Ridge Single Malts: "Almost every barrel will be unique because we finish each cask differently. First of all, every 'barrel' of our Single Malt will actually have aged in at least two different barrels. As our Single Malt matures, we dump it from the first barrel we age it in and transfer it to another barrel for finishing.

"We use a variety of different casks for this process –- ex-bourbon casks, ex-port casks, ex-rum casks, ex-brandy cask, ex-wine casks, even ex-sherry casks we are shipping in from Europe. Secondly, we are experimenting with different styles of malts. We use two-row, peated, six-row –- whatever we can get our hands on, as long as it is malted. This allows us to establish a unique pedigree, or history, for each finished barrel."

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