Sunday, July 12, 2020

New Riff Backsetter Peated Backset Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

VITALS:
- $45
- 100 Proof
- 4 years
- Kentucky

This was one of my more anticipated releases in recent memory. When New Riff announced that they were releasing Backsetter Rye, I had no clue what that meant at all. When I looked into it, I knew I was going to have to track down a bottle, and luckily I was able to do so without too much effort, though it didn't remain on shelves for very long.

Certainly bucking norms, New Riff used a peated sour mash backset, so a portion of a previous mash that's used in a new batch (kind of like sour dough bread). So it's not a peated whiskey, at least in the traditional sent of using peat to smoke the malt. I was very curious as to just how much smoke flavor would actually be imparted by the use of the peated backset, as I do love me a smokey Scotch from time to time.

On the nose I definitely got a char note, but it certainly wasn't very strong, and it was certainly a far cry from the smokey notes you get from Lagavulin or Laphroaig.  In addition to the light char, I also got some mild pine notes, as well as brown sugar and vanilla. The vanilla was almost minty in character. I also got some soft caramel notes as well.  All in all, I thought this smelled great, and I couldn't wait to dive into my first pour.

The smoke definitely shows up on the palate. Again, not quite like the heavily peated Scotches, but certainly more present than on the nose.  It was alight smokiness, kind of like a burnt marshmallow, where you get the char but it quickly subsides and makes way for the sweet, vanilla notes. In fact, the more I drank of this bottle, the more the smoke came through, particularly on the finish. I've often found that's what I've liked most in peated Scotches was the finish where the smoke lingered, and I really enjoyed it here.

Underneath the peat I got a healthy dose of caramel as well as a sweet graham cracker note. That sweetness went well with the burnt marshmallow notes. I also got a certain salty quality to it, kind of like salted caramel. One of the more interesting notes that I got, though, which I noticed from the first pour to the last, was a baked sweet potato flavor. That was certainly a first for me, but it worked with all the other flavors going on, and I did actually enjoy it.

All in all, the peat character is front and center, but that's not unexpected. I've seen a lot of love it or hate it reviews, and I'm not surprised.  Peated whiskeys tend to be divisive. If smoke is not your thing, then this is probably not for you.  I, however, loved it. In a way, it kind of reminded me of the bark of a good smoked brisket--smokey, salty and sweet.  I hope this makes its way around again, because I will absolutely be after another bottle.

Grade: A-

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