Review: New Riff Kentucky Wild Gin Bourbon Barreled
We’ve already introduced you to New Riff’s Kentucky Wild Gin, the only spirit in the young Kentucky distillery’s portfolio that isn’t a whiskey. At the time of that review, we mentioned that New Riff’s gin wasn’t just a quick moneymaker for the company to sell while its rye and bourbon aged. But we probably didn’t emphasize that point enough.
New Riff is really, really, really proud of their gin, and their co-founder Jay Erisman is borderline obsessed with the stuff. After much trial and error, he personally constructed the unique mix of botanicals that gives the gin its distinct flavor and aroma. On a recent visit he walked me through his exhaustive quality control for each ingredient and explained how difficult some of them are to stockpile, especially spicebush and his local, wild juniper. He also tasted me through single distillations of the dozen different botanicals to illustrate the essence of each component and how the slightest deviations could change the whole profile.
At the conclusion of my unexpectedly intense gin education, Jay introduced me to the merger of both New Riff worlds, their bourbon barrel-aged Kentucky Wild Gin. This gin is made exactly like the standard Kentucky Wild but sees between five and seven months of aging in “dripping wet” New Riff bourbon barrels. Armed with my new appreciation for what goes in to the original, I was almost hesitant to try this one. Almost.
The barrel aging has really changed up the aroma, adding a syrupy layer of vanilla and creamy toffee to the underlying dry and spice-forward gin. The pine notes have become sappy sweet but not so much that the spice erodes completely. On the palate, things become almost cocktail-like with the spicebush adding an herbal bitters quality to the bourbon notes, complete with a lemon twist. The considerable finish reigns all of that in, however, as the botanicals shine through the barrel influence to deliver angelica, dark licorice, pine resin, and loads of chalky cinnamon stick. It’s a fun barrel-aged gin that shows the best of New Riff’s considerable talents.