DSR-VA-022: River Hill Bourbon Whiskey
Company/Distillery: River Hill Wine and Spirits, LLC
Location: Luray, Virginia
Mash Bill: Undisclosed, at least 51% corn
Age Statement: 12 Months
Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV
Color & Viscosity: In the bottle, this River Hill Bourbon Whiskey presents chestnut in color. In the glass, a lightly aged copper hue is viewed. This bourbon appears thin and watery in the glass and tilting the glass to the side leaves a thin to medium bodied viscous line. Legs develop rather quickly then become a slow drip that forms tear shaped droplets.
Purchase Price: $21.09 from the Distillery; 375 ml Bottle
Bottle Label Information:
“River Hill Bourbon Whiskey”
“Distilled and bottled by River Hill Wine and Spirits, LLC, Luray, Virginia”
“Our family has been farming in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia for over two hundred years. We at River Hill Wine and Spirits take pride in the fact that most of the ingredients in this product are carefully grown, distilled, and aged in small quantities at the farm. Enjoy our whiskey, but please drink responsibly. – Fred Foley ”
“Aged 12 Months in Charred Oak Barrel No. 82 | Bottle No. 18 | Filled by FF”
Founded in 2014 by Fred and Amy Foley, River Hill Distillery calls Luray, Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley home. Just a short drive from Front Royal, Virginia or Charlottesville, Virginia, River Hill Distillery is located on the same land farmed by the Foley Family for approximately 200 years – just a short stone’s throw from the well-known Luray Caverns. Mr. and Mrs. Foley decided to diversify their farm operation by first opening a boarding stable for horses and eventually opening up their winery and distillery.
All of the corn used in the production of this bourbon whiskey is grown on the farm at River Hill. Some of the corn is used to feed their cattle while the rest is used in the production of their traditional River Hill Bourbon Whiskey and their 100% Corn Bourbon Whiskey.
Additional products include River Hill Corn Whiskey, River Hill Peach Corn Whiskey, and several different seasonal offerings of fruit wines.
A brief video of the distillery with an interview by Mr. Foley can be located on YouTube by Virginia Spirits.
Tasting Date/Vessel: October 1, 2022 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a couple drops of distilled water.
Christian: In the bottle, River Hill Bourbon Whiskey offers subtle notes of weathered leather and an earthiness of smoked corn. The smoke influence stands out the most from both the cork and the neck of the bottle. In my Glencairn glass, a nice sweetness seeps from the rim of the glass into the surrounding air. Clover honey, freshly baked pastry dough, and candied walnuts are the first aromas I recognize. A firm swirl allows a punch of fresh young corn, smoked caramel, and just a tinge of peanuts to tickle the senses. The addition of water brings forth a butteriness in this nose. A nice smoked butterscotch flavor really shines. As I swirl the glass gently, an all natural peanut butter aroma begins to show up.
Mike: As I nose this bourbon from the bottle, I’m immediately struck with notes of ballpark peanuts. A smokiness is introduced, reminiscent of fresh tobacco burning, giving way to dry roasted peanuts. This is a very peanut forward nose to start.
Drawing the tasting vessel to my nose reveals loads of new-make whiskey, fresh off the still, and a suggestion of ethanol. This whiskey offers sweeter notes from the glass, leaning towards honey or new honeysuckle blooms. Another pass after giving the glass a gentle swirl introduces honey roasted peanut aromas with a hint of smokiness in the back.
Christian: The mouthfeel on this bourbon by River Hill is super thin and soft. A very light viscosity is present, but it does not create much coating on the mouth or tongue. On the tip of my tongue, an aggressive sweetness of fresh corn slowly gives way to a nice smokiness. Notes of well-worn leather and lightly charred oak develop mid-palate. The distilled water accentuates the smoked corn characteristics. Visions of an open fire with buttered corn on the cob roasting comes to mind.
Mike: Buttered corn on the cob flavors quickly subside to young whiskey heat with a peppery rye spice. As the spice settles, a sweetness on the lips is revealed as the whiskey becomes dryer mid-palate. A second pass produces a much sweeter palate. Suggestions of honey roasted peanut butter that transitions to a subtle smokiness and a mild bitterness to close out the mouth on this bourbon by River Hill.
Christian: The finish is rather subdued and mild to me. It produces a short to medium heat that has a nice peppery spice. Again, a smooth smokiness remains present in the finish and is accompanied by the sweetness of vanilla wafers and cinnamon. Just a touch of honey roasted peanuts is present in this pour. Late on the palate, a pleasant and refreshing taste of grilled cantaloupe or melon is formed – not a traditional flavor by any means but a flavor that is crisp, light, and slightly sweet. Distilled water doesn’t change much in the finish for me. Peanuts, smoke, vanilla, and corn all are present and fighting for their place on the palate.
Mike: The finish on this River Hill Bourbon Whiskey packs quite a punch. The youthfulness of this product is very aggressive, drinking hotter than its bottling proof suggests. This has a very corn forward finish that produces a soft sweetness as the heat fades, only to reemerge in the middle chest. I do detect a touch of sweet, new leather lingering on the palate.
Christian: River Hill Bourbon Whiskey is a fun change-of-pace offering, distilled, aged, and bottled in beautiful Luray, Virginia. Although this bourbon is not going to knock your socks off with deep complexities, robust flavors, and fancy marketing, what River Hill Bourbon Whiskey does offer you is an incredibly approachable bourbon that is home grown, homemade, and distilled in their family tradition. There is an undeniable smokiness here that some will really enjoy and others may be turned off by. For me, this is a nice touch to this whiskey that otherwise may have been overly sweet. Having invested $21 into this product, I have absolutely no regrets! I think the offering provides a fun drinking experience with unique flavors that can be enjoyed with friends of all taste preferences. If you are visiting the Luray area, stop into River Hill and give Frank’s products a shot!
Rating: 2.65 Rickhouses
Mike: A rather inviting and sweet nose leaves me wanting more complexities in flavor with the mouthfeel. I like that this drinks a little hotter than 90 proof, but this will come across as unrefined and somewhat harsh to the average consumer. If I was providing a rating for each category, this would score very high for the nose, a middling to below average score on the mouth, and a meager finish. Bottom line for me is this has some decent qualities but lacks age, keeping it from being a higher quality product. It is good, not great, and comparable, if not slightly better, than similar aged offerings from other distilleries who are sourcing. A slight bump up on the Rickhouse Rating from me for River Hill distilling and aging their own product!
Rating: 2.625 Rickhouses