New Riff Bourbon (Bottled in Bond)
Today we’re going to dig into an up-and-coming distillery that has been making a big splash across the United States for the past couple years. A brand that is touting themselves as “A New Riff on an old tradition”. What does Northern Kentucky have in store for us today? Let’s have a look!
Founded in 2014 by liquor store owner–turned bourbon brand founder–Ken Lewis, New Riff is a Northern Kentucky distillery that resides next door to the aforementioned liquor store. In fact, they share a parking lot. After selling the liquor store to his employees, Lewis created a brand that was dedicated to simply making high quality whiskey. Bottled in bond without chill filtration, and focusing on quality ingredients are all staples of New Riff’s ethos. From New Riff’s website:
We are a new riff on an old tradition, that tradition or theme being Kentucky Bourbon. Founded in 2014 by Ken Lewis, a visionary Kentucky liquor retailer and entrepreneur, New Riff is led by a team of corporate refugees ranging from craft beer to politics and more. New Riff crafts a range of whiskeys—Bourbon, Rye, and eventually Malted Rye and a host of specialty recipes—as well as Kentucky Wild Gin. Our mission is simple: to someday be counted among the world’s great small distilleries. Becoming one of the great small distilleries of the world is a long term play, with no exact ring to win, or title to be declared.
I have to take a moment to mention their packaging. The New Riff bottle stands out on the store shelf as much as it does on the bar. The mantra of being a “New Riff on an old tradition” certainly rings true when you glance at this bottle. Very cool.
Nose – Sweet caramel corn and vanilla are having a party in here. There’s a bit of candy in here, maybe a butterscotch or English toffee but I wouldn’t go as far as to call it Werther’s sweet type of candy. Just…generic caramel/toffee/butterscotch candy…I guess.
Taste – Medium mouthfeel that coats well and brings all 100 proof points through clearly, but without over-stepping. Just an all around nicely balanced bourbon. It truly hits the classic bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel, a bit of rye spice leading to oak.
Finish – The proof doesn’t beat you up here. There isn’t a long tingly finish that reminds you of the ethanol; rather, it’s a well-rounded finish that is sweet right up until the very end where some spice kicks in. Balance. This is balance.
Bourbon Finder Grade: B-
If you’re of the opinion that craft whiskey is all under-aged, grain forward, and can just be…well…not very good, please let New Riff change your mind. Bottled-in-bond whiskey that’s done right. This is a solid pour, and is moderately available in terms of distribution. A good addition to your bar, and a perfect representation of bourbon. In fact, if I was somehow put into the position of being required to describe what exactly constitutes bourbon and I had to check off all of the classic boxes for the profile–I believe New Riff would do that down to the letter.
Our grading system: As mentioned in our About Us page, we’re excited to share bourbon with our friends, family, and readers. There are enough critics, cynics, and curmudgeons in the whiskey world as it is, so our goal is to foster the bourbon community in a positive way by bringing fun and entertaining content whenever possible–as such–we decided that applying precise scores to whiskey was simply too serious for us (and didn’t accurately showcase variability in taste from day to day). We use a simple grade school system to apply a grade to the whiskeys we review because we feel it is indicative of the whiskey’s grade for us on that particular day. A grade of a “B” today may very well be a “B+” or even a “B-” on another day, so rather than focusing on a precise score today that may not stand the test of time, we are just sharing our overall grade of that pour for that one tasting. Pour a bit and enjoy, friends, these are the good old days of whiskey!