Ken Lewis opened New Riff Distillery in the spring of 2014 in Newport, Kentucky, which is just on the other side of the river from Cincinnati. While New Riff built up the supply of their own aged products, they sourced high-rye bourbon from MGP. They named this brand O.K.I. which stands for: Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, aka distilled in Indiana, bottled in Kentucky, and loved in Ohio. This brand has now been retired and New Riff is focused on their own distillate.
The sourcing of products was necessary to buy the company time, since New Riff wanted to age their products in 53 gallon barrels and release them as Bottled in Bond products. Additionally, New Riff products are currently being released without chill filtration.
This bottle being reviewed is New Riff's distillate. It was distilled in the spring of 2017 and bottled in the spring of 2021. It’s Bottled in Bond, without chill filtration, and aged at least four years.
Subtle baking scents kick things off, with fresh baked bread, cinnamon bark, and brown sugar rising to the top. Layered underneath are light notes of toasted oak, hay, baked cinnamon apples, and vanilla bean. Its distinct yet subtle scents are inviting, forming a nice introduction to the overall sip.
Sweet caramel, vanilla powder, and light baking spice jump to the forefront. Exploring deeper reveals more sweet flavors in the form of light marshmallow and sweet oak. A twinge of spice is added by notes of gingered candy and rye spice. For a younger bourbon, it presents a full flavored palate that is the highlight of the sip.
Bold rye spice delivers an uppercut to start things off. Trying to fight their way through the spice is light vanilla, along with dabs of dry leather and oak. The heat from the spice lingers carrying with it faint notes of sweet vanilla. It makes for a nice combination and a suitable way to cap the sip off.
Bottled in Bond bourbons have made a comeback, and the designation is more prominent than it was just a few years ago. In fact, you’re slowly seeing more established distilleries release them such as Barton’s 1792 Bottled in Bond, Jim Beam Old Tub and even Woodford Reserve with their distillery- only Bottled in Bond release just to name a few. You’re also seeing a trend of more craft distilleries releasing Bottled in Bond bourbons as their in-house distilled spirits slowly come of age. What’s unique about New Riff is that they didn’t release their own distilled whiskey until it was able to qualify as a Bottled in Bond product.
Compared to other Bottled in Bond products in the marketplace, New Riff Straight Bourbon is able to hold its own, thanks to its sip that is full of sweeter flavors. It gets a little trickier when you compare New Riff Straight Bourbon to other New Riff bourbons, specifically their popular single barrel selections. New Riff has made a name for itself for offering some fantastic single barrel selections over the years that are also 4 years old, but offered at barrel proof. While the standard New Riff Straight Bourbon offers good consistency, it sometimes can’t match the fuller flavor and complexity that a standout single barrel selection has to offer.
Bottled in Bond bourbons can vary widely in price, from around $20 to $100 or more. Coming in at $45, New Riff Straight Bourbon is priced perfectly for what it delivers. The sip is subtle in nature, yet full of flavor. Its consistency at the price point is good and you’ll know that you’re getting a well-rounded bourbon at a fair price should you choose to buy a bottle.
New Riff Straight Bourbon may not be able to compete with some of its sibling single barrels, however it offers a consistent well balanced sip at a reasonable price.
In just a few short years, New Riff has made quite a name for itself in the world of whiskey. The company's single barrel products are a hot commodity along with their highly sought after limited edition whiskey riffs. Throughout all of their success however has remained one constant, their standard straight bourbon and rye whiskeys. These more readily accessible products showcase the distilling prowess of New Riff at a reasonable price point.
In the case of the company’s Straight Bourbon, the product offers a surprisingly sweet backbone to complement the large amount of rye in its mashbill. The end result is an easy to enjoy sip that will please most on any given night. If you haven’t given this little (and growing) Kentucky distillery a chance yet, their Straight Bourbon is a good place to start.