Rye Face-Off: Sazerac vs New Riff

Today, something a little different. My favorite retailer and all-around whiskey personality, David Driscoll, recently offered a package deal at Mission Liquor in Pasadena, California, to showcase New Riff’s flagship bottled-in-bond range. He offered a deal on a bottle of Blanton’s (which is perennially hard to get these days) for anyone willing to buy all four pictured bottles. He suggested we do a comparative tasting to see how New Riff stacks up against the Biggest of Boys in the whiskey game: Buffalo Trace. Anyone who has read this blog for awhile knows that I’m a sucker for a deal. I’m also a sucker for tasting challenge, so I was all in.

I’ll be posting these reviews over two weeks. First up, the ryes. Next week: the bourbons. To follow along first read the two independent reviews:

Then come back here for the face-off:


All respect to David, comparing these two is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. The Sazerac is bright, fruity, vibrant, and spicy, and comes from a 51% (allegedly) low-rye mash bill. The New Riff is dark, caramelized, woody, and brooding and comes from a 100% rye mash bill. Head-to-head the New Riff makes the Sazerac seem a little overdone: A little too “fruit punch” or candy-like. Meanwhile, the Sazerac makes the New Riff seem even darker and drier almost to the point of blandness.

WINNER: Sazerac by a nose hair, sorry Driscoll, but it was super close. Honestly, I could see many rye lovers preferring the New Riff due to its complexity, even if it’s not a classic rye profile. It also has a better “up-and-comer underdog” story, which I guess justifies its higher price.

Side note: Pouring my leftovers of these two together (50-50) made a nice dram that reminded me of Hochstadters. I… I may be doing that again…

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  • I saw the same challenge but put the New Riff Rye up against a Pinhook I had. I figured the mashbills were similar since New Riff is apparently 95% rye and 5% malted rye and the Pinhook is MGP. I preferred the New Riff hands-down. Haven’t gotten a New Riff bourbon yet but I’m only 4 blocks away from Mission.