Our host started our evening by asking if we were familiar with the quartet of Kentucky Rye we were about to try? Most of us had heard of Basil Hayden’s – more for their Bourbon than Rye – however I simply had to admit I had never heard of New Riff distillery before.
We can be forgiven for that living in India as this is a new entry into the Kentucky whiskey world – having started only in 2014 as a small, independent, family owned distillery. This bottle was picked up from the distillery and likely one of their initial batches from Spring 2019.
The idea of “New Riff” is to build on Kentucky bourbon and rye making traditions… They use 95% rye and 5% malted rye, aged for at least four years in 53 gallon toasted and charred new oak barrels, no chill filtration and “bottled in bond.”
Just in case you are curious, “bottled in bond” is a label for an American-made distilled beverage that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the United States government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897.
So what did we find?
New Riff Kentucky Straight Rye (Spring 2019) 50%
- Colour – Bright gold
- Nose – Started a bit soft, hint of tobacco – perhaps charred oak? Fruits, tart and sweet candy, has a nice hint of spice, back to the candy…
- Palate – Banana, that distinctive rye spice, then became sweet and syrupy
- Finish – VERY dry, sour mash, dry dust rag…
- Water – Rather than add water, we first took a good swig of cold water then sipped the rye… Ugh! No no no no no no! Very bitter, all that dry element accentuated further…. for us at least, having this neat is perfection!
Overall most found it quite nice though not complex. The nose and palate were the strongest with the finish almost a bit TOO dry.
There was something almost rustic about this one. There was no question this was a rye however it was not in the least bit harsh… even at 50%. Perhaps its age or other elements accounts for the happy absence of “kick” found in some rye that cry out for a mix! And I also had a sneaking suspicion this rye would easily hold its own in a quality cocktail.
We set it aside to continue our journey through Kentucky ryes… on the revisit we found the spice remained… again one that made me wonder, what would it be like in a cocktail?
What did the folks at New Riff have to say?
- Appearance: Extra rich, unfiltered deep amber color.
- Nose: Spicy and detailed, showing mint, black pepper, and vanilla with hints of orange and oak.
- Taste: Cinnamon spice, vanilla and sweet toffee moving into a bold mouth feel with rich Rye spice, caramel and toasted oak. Complex flavors drink older than four-year-old.
- Finish: Bold Rye spice with vanilla buttercream and lingering brown sugar, plus a mineral-grassy Rye tone that fades slowly.
What else did we try in our journey through Kentucky Rye?
- Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye 40% – Partnering Kentucky straight rye with Canadian rye whiskey and port
- Wilderness Trail Single Barrel 15017 Kentucky Straight Rye 56.5% – Not just from a single barrel but also a small batch that produced only 203 bottles at cask strength!
- Angel’s Envy Rum Finished Rye 50% – Clearly the ‘premium’ end of the spectrum finished in Caribbean rum barrels
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