New Riff Distillery, located in Newport Kentucky, is an actual distillery. It saddens me that I have to specify that, but so many brands that are new to the shelves in the last decade can’t say the same.
New Riff was founded in 2014 and already has a massive following. All of its flagship bottlings – rye and bourbon – are bottled-in-bond and also bottled without chill filtration. This rye is 100% rye (95% rye, 5% malted rye for enzymes), which is unusual although not unique. It’s aged for 4 years. My bottle is from the Spring 2017 distilling season (so it was bottled in Spring of 2021), and retails for around $40.
Nose: Drip coffee, butterscotch, cocoa, burnt caramel, woody chunk charcoal. The aromas are dark, roasted, and complex.
Palate: Syrupy body. A moderate tongue burn (appropriate for 50% ABV) is followed by honey candies, caramel apples, molasses, and cola. Dark flavor notes, again, but distinct from the aroma. Oddly little in the way of spices, although some allspice or nutmeg shows up eventually.
Finish: Medium length. Mouth-drying and fairly tannic. Cola again, maybe Cherry Coke, dry powdered cocoa. Ends without evolving.
With Water: Several drops of water initially drastically mute the aroma, necessitating a rest in the glass. After, the nose tickle is more pronounced and there is an additional note of vague spice (stale cinnamon). I don’t recommend water with this.
Overall: A thoroughly different experience to most ryes, which emphasize either fruit or spice notes. This is heavy with roasted/toasted notes and caramelized sugars. That said, it’s a flavorful dram with a lot of complexity to explore.
If it were priced competitively with other 4 year-old ryes, such as Sazerac or Rittenhouse 100 I would rate this “Recommended”. However, at $40 it looks to compete with the middle of the market, and I don’t think it quite manages it. Thus, a Try-Before-Buy.