New Riff is one of the hottest new distilleries in Kentucky right now. Last year saw the release of their in-house, bottled in bond bourbon, and a single barrel bourbon program followed not far behind with plenty of local and national retailers getting in on the action. There were even New Riff bourbon barrel picks in the gift shop at my hotel on a recent Kentucky visit. The distillery isn’t wasting much time adding to their portfolio in 2019 with the release of a straight rye (also bottled in bond) that, like the bourbon, will be followed by its own single barrel program (later this year).
The recipe for this rye was engineered by none other than Larry Ebersold, formerly of Seagram’s, who introduced the famed 95% rye mashbill currently bottled by MGP for a host of customers. Unlike that recipe, however, New Riff uses 5% malted rye as opposed to malted barley, which they say “aids in pulling additional flavors out of the rye and adds a touch of the elegance of malted rye.” It’s their “riff” on that popular mashbill, if you will. We really enjoyed last year’s bourbon releases, so let’s see how the rye compares!
The nose on this whiskey is bright and complex. Poured straight from a fresh sample, there’s at first a big green bell pepper note that becomes more mint-like with a little air. Also in the mix is clover honey, warm rye bread, fresh oak, and a bit of expressed orange peel. The palate is oily and rich, showing plenty of classic rye flavors: cracked black pepper, clove, and cinnamon stick, with a touch of pine. It gets a little more savory in the finish, with shortbread and chocolate chip cookie notes, but the brighter elements return for the finale along with a lingering orange creamsicle note and a bit of lemon peel. I can’t say if it’s the malted rye or not, but there is definitely an elegance to this one. It’s exceptionally well-balanced for a younger rye and another winner from the folks at New Riff.