New Riff has been on a malt kick of late, beginning with their Maltster Bourbons and Malted Rye in 2021 and followed by a sherry-finished version of the same malted rye in the spring of 2022. The distillery is continuing its exploration of malted grains with two recent limited-edition offerings: Maltster T50 Crystal Malt Bourbon and Aroostock Malted Rye. A bit about each from New Riff:
The New Riff Maltster T50 Crystal Malt Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey builds on past Maltster releases. Head Distiller Brian Sprance has a background in brewing and wanted to highlight a malted barley called T50 crystal malt in this distillation. Typically used in pale ales and bitters, crystal malt lends toasty-toffee notes as well as color and head retention.
The second fall release is a riff on New Riff’s Malted Rye program, which includes a core malted rye release that debuted in 2021, and a sherry-finished expression released earlier this year. Co-founder Jay Erisman says that when New Riff began making malted rye in 2014, the only consistent source of good quality malted rye in the necessary quantities was Germany. The distillery has imported malted rye from Germany since then, but also kept an eye on growing American craft maltsters.
“One of these is Sugar Creek Malt Co., in Lebanon, Indiana,” Erisman says. “Founder and Head Maltster Caleb Michalke offered us a rare malted rye, grown in Kentucky and using the Aroostook variety of rye grain. We were thrilled at this opportunity to try a Kentucky-grown rye, but especially to use a different variety of rye than our usual German supply.”
Both limited edition whiskeys were made available late last year to New Riff’s whiskey club and select retailers. We received samples of each for review. Thoughts follow.
New Riff Aroostock Malted Rye 6 Years Old – Made from a mashbill of 100% Kentucky-grown Aroostock malted rye and aged for 6 years. A uniquely green and fresh aroma dominated by newly mowed grass, soft menthol, and underripe orchard fruit. The palate is cooling with chocolate mint, wintergreen gum, and a mildly sweet, melon note, almost honeydew. Gentle toffee and spice cabinet notes emerge as the brighter elements subside on the mid palate, giving way to a more classic rye finish of clove and muddled mint. 100 proof. B+ / $60
New Riff Maltster T50 Crystal Malt Bourbon 6 Years Old – Made from a mash of 65% corn, 20% malted rye, and 15% T50 crystal malt, aged for 6 years. The nose evokes the ascribed toasty quality of the crystal malt with a bit of Honey Grahams and cinnamon toast, but as it opens, the malted rye starts to shine with some gentle spice and a sweet cherry lozenge note. The palate feels more rye-forward, with a generous, earthy spice and notes of clove chewing gum and more cherry candies. The crystal malt emerges more on the mid palate with dark caramel notes and a bit of slightly bitter baking chocolate. The finish is warming and long with cocoa powder, cocktail cherry, and subtle baking spice. 100 proof. A- / $60