If you've followed me long, you'll know that I have a favorite category of American Whiskey: Bottled in Bond. In my opinion, if the bottle makes that proclamation, you'd be hard-pressed to be disappointed. Of course, all rules have their exceptions, but for the most part, Bonded whiskeys are affordable, they represent American distilling in its purest form, and they're delicious. Until recently, the category was also largely ignored and regulated to the bottom shelf so much so, that when I first started reviewing whiskeys, I created a #RespectTheBottomShelf hashtag because I found so many gems down there.
For folks new to whiskey, or at least new to American whiskey, a common question is What is bond and why is something bottled in bond? In a nutshell, back in the old days, there were very unscrupulous renderers and resellers pushing spirits with a lot of additives. Some of those additives were simply disgusting, like spent tobacco "juice" and others were downright dangerous, such as turpentine. The additives were there not to help extend the inventory and make as much money from a barrel as possible.
The Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 addressed all of that. It was a consumer protection act. By calling something Bottled in Bond, certain guarantees were put in place:
- It must be a product of one distilling season from a single distillery. A distilling season is either January to June or July to December;
- It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least four years;
- It must be bottled at 100°;
- It must state on the bottle the name of the actual distillery (versus just a brand name of a non-distilling producer); and
- It must be a whole US-made spirit.
New Riff Distilling was created in 2014 by Ken Lewis and Jay Erisman in Newport, Kentucky. It is an independently-owned distillery that distills Bourbon, Rye, Malted Rye, and Gin. New Riff Rye is a 100% Rye mash bill (95% rye and 5% malted rye) aged in 53-gallon new, charred oak barrels. It is non-chill filtered and retails for $49.99. It is four years old and, fulfilling the Bottled in Bond requirement, it is bottled at 100°.
All of this is well and good, but in the end, the important stuff matters... time to #DrinkCurious.
In my Glencairn, New Riff Rye was a very dark, inviting amber. It left a thin rim on my glass but produced thick, faster legs that dropped back into the pool of liquid sunshine.
Initial spicy aromas of mint and cinnamon permeated my nostrils. Once I got beyond the shock, orange peel, oak, and vanilla came through. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a complete vanilla bomb that made my mouth water.
The mouthfeel was very creamy. Up front, that thick vanilla from the nosing raced across my palate, and mixed into the vanilla was almost a perfect amount of cinnamon. Mid-palate changed to black pepper and sweetened condensed milk (a note I never thought I'd pen in a rye review). On the back, the rye spice shone through with a combination of toasted oak and clove.
A long-lasting finish of clove, dry oak and caramel hung around to bring a smile to my face.
New Riff Rye is a very complex, very different rye from start to finish. On my Bottle, Bar or Bust scale, this one is an absolute recommended Buy, and especially for the price, I don't see how you can go wrong.