Review: New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon

DSR – KY – 006: New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon

Company/Distillery: New Riff Distilling

Location: Newport, Kentucky

Mash Bill: 65% Non-GMO Corn, 30% Rye, and 5% Barley

Age Statement: Aged At Least 4 Years

Proof/ABV: 105.4 Proof/52.7% ABV

Color & Viscosity: A beautiful tawny color that hinges on auburn glows. The viscosity is medium and oily as several legs glide back down the belly of the tasting vessel.

Purchase Price: $49.99 from the Liquor Barn July 2020; 750 ml

Bottle Label Information:

Neck Label

“A New Riff on an Old Tradition”

“Kentucky Regimen”

“Distilled Spring 2016”

“Bottled Spring 2020”

Front Label

“New Riff Single Barrel”

“Barrel Proof Without Chill Filtration”

“Sour Mash Bourbon”

“Kentucky Straight Whiskey”

“Proof 105.4 | Alc./Vol. 52.7 | Barrel No. 16-10357”

Back Label

“A New Riff on an Old Tradition”

“Each New Riff barrel is singular in personality and flavor, selected for its quality and complexity. Bottled at Barrel Proof and Without Chill Filtration, we preserve the character of the barrel all the way to your glass.”

“Aged At Least 4 Years”


“Distilled, Aged and bottled by New Riff Distilling, Newport, Kentucky”

Distillery Background

New Riff Distilling

New Riff Distilling, of Newport, Kentucky, was founded in 2014 by Ken Lewis. Mr. Lewis had previously been a teacher and entrepreneur who founded The Party Source, a mega liquor store known for being the largest liquor store in the United States. In 2014, Lewis sold his ownership in The Party Source to his employees, by way of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), in order to finance and officially launch New Riff Distillery.

Lewis built New Riff with the desire to, “One day be counted among the world’s great small distilleries.” In order to do that, Ken Lewis runs New Riff Distillery as a small family business, with no outside investors or voices. This allows the distillery to block out a lot of noise that could pull it in many different and contradictory directions. Lewis’ background uniquely positions him to be both a teacher and entrepreneur while also leading his team at the distillery. New Riff commits itself to upholding the statutes of the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 as a way to insure the quality of its products. They pride themselves on making whiskey the right way – cutting no corners or trying to quick age their products. It appears to be working, as New Riff Distillery has started to make a name for themselves as a key player in the Kentucky whiskey scene.

In an industry where distilleries can, at times, act and produce behind a veil, New Riff bucks the trend. Instead of being like many of their peers, the distillers at New Riff believe in transparency – they disclose their process, mash bills, and even going as far as enclosing their column still in a glass room, allowing anyone to see inside as production occurs.

This distillery will be one to keep an eye on as they continue to mature and make a name for themselves as a “New Riff on an old Tradition”.

Check out more about New Riff and their process at their website.

New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon

New Riff Single Barrel bourbon is made using limestone water, pulled from an aquifer directly below the distillery, followed by a period of open fermentation, then distilled in a copper column still, and finally aged in 53 gallon barrels for at least 4 years. Each New Riff Single Barrel is hand selected by a production panel at the distillery before being chosen for bottling. Our bottle is made of a high-rye mash bill which has a make up of 35% rye, is bottled at just over 105 proof, non-chill filtered, and aged at just over 4 years. In addition, our batch was distilled in the spring of 2016 and bottled in the spring of 2020.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: October 11, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass, then a second time with a few drops of distilled water.


Christian: Wow! My first nosing of this bourbon produces a pop of sweet corn. As I swirl the juice in my Glencairn glass, a deep sweet caramel sauce profile begins to slide forward. I quickly think of freshly prepared kettle corn or caramel corn. As I continue to allow the flavors to develop, I begin to notice a slight hint of vanilla and warm butter becoming present. This is a fantastic nose. Adding distilled water really brings forth a note of butterscotch, brown sugar, and a light maple syrup. Sweet and inviting.

Mike: A gentle sweetness is first noticed, reminiscent of kettle corn, that transitions to a cider-like tartness. Soft notes of brown sugar appear as I gently swirl the Glencairn. Smooth ethanol aromas are present, signifying the higher proof of this offering but they do not overpower. The bouquet of flavors snuggle together amazingly. Allowing the glass to sit then going back to nose, exposes pronounced brown sugar fragrances.


Christian: This whiskey provides a thick but soft mouthfeel. The first sip is drastically different than expected, given the nose. Honey, graham crackers, and leather dominate, with a slight hint of maple syrup present. Additional sips really announce the arrival of oak with a nice vanilla bean flavor. A few drops of distilled water bring a silky quality to the mouth feel. Oak really moves forward as the focal point of the pour. A light hint of caramel sauce provides a nice accompaniment to the oak.

Mike: The mouthfeel is velvety on the tip of my tongue. Strong hints of oak move across the palate from front to back. Notes of caramelized brown sugar balance perfectly with suggestions of warmed apple sauce on the back end. The sweetness resides, leaving a dry mouthfeel of unsweetened apple puree.


Christian: This New Riff Single Barrel provides a medium-long finish that brings a fantastic Kentucky hug with it. Vanilla custard and caramelized sugar, reminiscent of Crème Brulee, provide a delicate and sweet finish. A late hint of cooking spices, mainly clove and cinnamon, along with pears in heavy syrup, lingers long after you have swallowed. The addition of water really doesn’t extinguish the finish or Kentucky hug, however, it does tame it a bit. Surprisingly, the rye spices – clove and black pepper, really pick up steam.

Mike: This whiskey offers a long and pronounced finish. The burn begins in the throat and is sharp, then persists down into the chest where it sits and lingers mildly before slowly fading away. The unsweetened apple puree flavors continue to linger along with the presence of biscuit animal crackers.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: I really like this pour. The diverse range of flavors are accompanied by an appropriate amount of spices and the Kentucky hug makes for a well-balanced and complete drinking experience. A barrel proof point of 105.4 is lower than other offerings on the market, however, seems just right for this bourbon. The proof is not too overpowering to be enjoyed neat but also allows the whiskey to hold up nicely to added ice cubes, water, or even an Old Fashioned. I will do my best to pick up more of New Riff Single Barrel as the opportunities allow! If you are out and see it, go ahead and grab a bottle for your enjoyment. I believe you will not regret the decision.

Rating: 3.75 Rickhouses

Mike: The addition of water brings forward aromatics of honey to the nose. Leather on oak overshadows any confectionaries formerly present in the mouth. The finish is muted but still pronounced.

This bourbon is multifaceted and robust in flavors and aromas. This offering is superb when neat, however, on the rocks or with a splash of water really opens this expression. That is what I love about high proof or barrel proof bourbons, they generally offer a complexity of flavors that can be enjoyed neat or subdued with ice, water, or hold their own in a cocktail. 

I definitely recommend this bourbon for its overall value and versatility.

Rating: 3.75 Rickhouses


One thought on “Review: New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon

  1. Thank you gentlemen! Your collective palate gives me and your other readers a headstart on finding good bourbon. Excited to add this one to my list!

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