Friday, March 22, 2019

New Riff Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon

- $55
- 112.1 Proof
- 4 years
- Barrel No. 15-1960
- Kentucky

I first heard of New Riff Distillery on some whiskey/bourbon podcast a few years back. I honestly don't remember which podcast it was—I wish I could recall. I remember that they interviewed a woman from New Riff and they discussed New Riff's business plan at that time – that being to source bourbon and brand it as O.K.I. Bourbon while they await the maturation of their own distillate. Seems to be a relatively common business plan for craft bourbon startups.

Shortly after hearing that podcast, I took a trip to Kentucky and I made it a point to grab a bottle of O.K.I. off the shelf (it wasn't available in Illinois at the time). It was a 10-year bourbon and I really enjoyed it! At the time, however, I didn't know that New Riff intended to create a line in the sand, discontinuing O.K.I. altogether when their own distillate was ready for bottling and distribution.

Fast forward a couple years, and I started seeing positive review after positive review of New Riff Bourbon and Rye, their own distillate, in Facebook groups, on Twitter and nearly everywhere else I turned. Given how much I appreciated their ability to source good whiskey, I really wanted to get my hands on some of their own make. But it wasn't distributed in Illinois.

A couple weeks ago, however, in making my usual Binny's perusal, I was immediately drawn to the top shelf, where there sat the Bottled-in-Bond and the Single Barrel New Riff Bourbons—no announcements or advertising or hoopla regarding greater distribution, it just one day appeared!

As soon as I got home I cracked the top, and the very first thing I noticed was the heavy corn content, the kind you get from most young, craft whiskeys. I also got a heavy dose of ethanol, and I was immediately preparing myself for disappointment. Aside from some redeeming notes of cinnamon and orange peel, the bitterness and otherwise noxious aromas were difficult to get past.

And yet, the flavor was a far cry from those young, "crafty" flavors that I was expecting to have to choke down. This hit like a caramel-cinnamon bomb. It unquestionably tastes older than it is. The sweet caramel really takes center stage, coating the mouth front to back in rich sweetness, while at the same time providing a decent amount of cinnamon spice to balance.

There were still some signs of this bourbon's "youngness." I did get a hint of that apple flavor that I tend to get in younger bourbons, and it still had some rough edges that would certainly mellow out with more time in the barrel. However, these flaws are slight and are out-shined by an otherwise delicious bourbon.

The last few pours really sweetened up, and all that seemed to remain was that caramel-cinnamon bomb that I got on my initial impression. I never was a fan of the nose, but the flavor was absolutely delicious, and New Riff is definitely doing something right!

Grade: B+

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