New Riff is a brand I always meant to explore early into my whiskey journey, but I put them off in favor of other brands and expressions. This has only been amplified in the past 3-5 years. Not only are new names popping up left and right, but they’re often bringing multiple bottles in quick succession. Yet like many of the older, more stalwart players, New Riff’s baseline expressions have sat around just waiting for people to try them. So far, I’ve only tried their bottled in bond bourbon and a pick of their barrel proof bourbon. Today we’re looking at their single barrel rye which, like the bourbon, is also available in a bottled in bond variant.
Bottled at barrel proof and without chill filtration, New Riff’s rye is made from a mash bill of 95% and 5% malted rye, with New Riff describing it as intense, “robust and fulsome.” Most rye whiskeys produced in Kentucky tend to be barely legal (51% rye mash bill, maybe slightly more) and include corn, so that combined with the lower barrel proof point should result in a relatively interesting dram.
Nose: Bit of sweet cereal essence. Light woody character with grass and mild herbs. Slightly savory in the background. Pepper, lemon, and traces of mint. Vanilla emerges with time, along with pine and licorice. Brown sugar comes to the top on after sipping. Borderline effervescent. Get a stronger mint atmosphere over time.
Palate: Lime, mint, and pepper. Caramel with a vague fruity layer. Brown sugar and barrel char components are apparent and pleasant, but not overbearing. Light, slightly sweet licorice. Oddly refreshing.
Finish: Building pepper and rye spice with hints of eucalyptus offering a nice offset. Whisper of vanilla on the back, along with that effervescence. Falls just a touch short.
Whiskey tends to showcase less grainy essence and flavor as it spends more time in a cask, which is just one reason many will argue there’s a sweet spot when it comes to aging. Naturally this varies depending on the whiskey category and even the distillery in question. The realm of rye whiskey is one of my favorites when considering how grain and wood behave at varying points in time. Younger ryes tend to express more of the tell-tale signs that include herbs, pepper, and a broad spice component. Older ryes, by comparison, can often inherit characteristics more consistent with bourbon as the influence of oak becomes more prominent.
This particular barrel of New Riff Single Barrel Rye is a good showcase for something in-between. Although it’s taken on some personality from the barrel—manifested in the aforementioned brown sugar, vanilla, and barrel char, there’s still plenty of rye backbone to go around. I’ll go out on a limb and say this is perfect boujie cocktail material. Some might read “cocktail” in a whiskey review and think “not good,” but sometimes you just can’t beat a well made cocktail, and I think this with the right recipe(s) has the potential to be a showstopper.