There’s been plenty of buzz about the brown spirits coming out of Kentucky’s New Riff Distillery. We’ve reviewed their bottled-in-bond bourbon and single barrel bourbon, as well as the more recent rye release. While their whiskey gets the lion’s share of attention, New Riff actually has a clear spirit in their portfolio, Kentucky Wild Gin. Most new distilleries bottle gin (and its less exciting sibling, vodka) to keep the lights on while the whiskey ages, but New Riff opened its doors only after their whiskey was ready to sell, meaning this gin is more than a quick moneymaker. It’s pot distilled with 12 botanicals, all of which are added directly to the distillation. There’s the traditional citrus (three kinds), licorice root, and angelica, and the juniper is a wild variety hand foraged in Kentucky along with American Spicebush and “a dash” of Kentucky’s state flower, goldenrod. There’s also a small amount of new make rye whiskey added for texture. It sure sounds like an interesting gin, so let’s dive in!
There’s a healthy amount of spice on the nose. Even the juniper berry comes across as peppery. It’s dry, almost dusty, with cedar closet and a subtle touch of sweet vanilla. The palate is equally dry with a big flowery burst of lavender and tree pollen that gives way to flamed lemon peel, spicy peppercorns, and red licorice. The rye spirit has definitely added texture, but the added spice seems to compete with some of the subtler botanicals. The finish is lengthy and becomes juicier with notes of vanilla bean and lemonade. With a little lime and tonic, the dryness surprisingly remains with noticeable notes of licorice and Spicebush. It’s definitely a unique gin that deserves a creative cocktail, but I see this one ending up in plenty of dry martinis, as well.
A- / $30 / newriffdistilling.com