New Riff Winter Whiskey (2020)

Here were are, mere days away from the official beginning of winter 2020 and I have in my sweaty paws a bottle of New Riff’s newest limited edition: Winter Whiskey.  This is one wild product by the look of things.  The label tells us there is malted oat and chocolate malt in the mashbill of this bourbon…which for most of us (myself included) will be an entirely new experience.  Let’s tear this open and check it out!


John H.




December 17th, 2020

Limited edition whiskeys take a front seat from roughly the end of August right up through the holiday season.  New Riff’s latest entrant into the limited edition world certainly comes with more questions than answers, but let’s take a look at the product and see what New Riff has to say about it.

Leaning into the brewing background of their head distiller, Brian Sprance, New Riff set out to craft something that harkens to the chocolate oatmeal stout beer world.  They aimed to capture the essence of winter in a 750ml bottle by pulling those rich and hearty flavors from the beer scene into whiskey.  In checking out the New Riff website I found this bit I wanted to share:

It’s quite a unique Bourbon, unlike anything we’ve ever made or tasted. The experience is something of a three-way conversation between the dry cocoa quality of the chocolate malt; a balanced amount of oak; and this unique spicy quality (sort of like kasha-style buckwheat, perhaps blueberry skin) quite distinct from that of rye. The finish dances away on the oaty spice, dusted with Belgian cocoa. Despite the suggestion of “chocolate” in the grains and the name, it never turns cloying, tending to delicate dryness.

Alright it is only nine degrees outside as I type this…that’s winter enough to have a pour of this new release.  Here we go!

Tasting Notes…

Nose – Malty caramel and roasted buttery pecan.  Very interesting and layered amount of mixed nuts.  Moving into a sweet and salty caramel over creme brûlée.

Taste – Starts out with a very classic New Riff profile for me…and then shifts into “crazy chocolate mode” where milk chocolate and white chocolate blend with ice cream shop flavors and they all go berserk. A praline topping rounds this out.  To quote Letterkenny “If Scotty Wallace were here, he’d say: YEW!”

Finish – A long finish  that’s nutty and savory while still bringing in sweet caramel and a pile of chocolate–like different chocolates.  You know the Valentine’s Day sampler packages right?  Basically half a box of those.  A light bitterness that’s somewhat reminiscent of Spanish peanuts, and hint of buttery oak char. This is really something.

Bourbon Finder Grade: B

Final thoughts…

Wow is this a unique and interesting release from New Riff.  I dig the design of the bottle and how they’ve labeled this, but I don’t honestly know if this strikes a chord with me as being a distinctly winter pour.  That said, I don’t know as I have a better idea for what to call it.  I am reminded of Christmas time with the toasted nuts and sweet caramel flavors mingling with the chocolate, and obviously calling it Christmas Whiskey would end up being divisive…so what the hell.  Winter Whiskey it is!  Nicely done and I’m excited to see this product evolve over the years.

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!

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