Bourbon Face-Off: Blanton’s vs New Riff

Last week we did rye. This week, bourbon. As a reminder: 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.

To follow along this week first read the two independent reviews:

Then come back here for the face-off:


This one is a bit more of a direct comparison. Both are rye-flavored bourbons at similar strengths. The Blanton’s is far more expensive than the New Riff, especially these days when anything “premium” from Buffalo Trace gets snapped up. The mash bills are a bit different, with Blanton’s coming in somewhere around 12-15% rye and the New Riff at a hearty 30%.

The Blanton’s smells like a warm hug from a Southern grandma. The New Riff smells like a right hook from a lawnmower. On the palate both are more similar, with the Blanton’s leaning towards baked treats lying around said grandma’s kitchen, and the New Riff leaning towards candy and spices. New Riff has a more-pleasant finish and better continuation of palate flavors. Still, I’ll take the Blanton’s, thanks, even with the anemic finish. I just can’t get over that grassy aroma on the New Riff.

WINNER: Blanton’s, sorry Driscoll, but damn did I have fun finding out.

I highly recommend that you reproduce your own side-by-side tastings. Literally pick any two whiskies of similar makeup (two bourbons, two ryes, two blended scotches, whatever) pour a glass of each, and alternate tastes. It really gives you the opportunity to tease out notes and textures that you might have missed tasting the dram solo. Also, it’s fun to pick a winner. Cheers, and thanks for reading!

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