Veteran Bourbon Review: New Riff Single Barrel


New Riff Distillery


65% Corn, 30% Rye, 5% Malted Barley


4 Years


108 Proof

Purchase Price

$56 (2022)

Official Product Website

History – “We are a new riff on an old tradition, that tradition or theme being Kentucky Bourbon. Founded in 2014 by Ken Lewis, a visionary Kentucky liquor retailer and entrepreneur, New Riff is led by a team of corporate refugees ranging from craft beer to politics and more. New Riff crafts a range of whiskeys—Bourbon, Rye, and eventually Malted Rye and a host of specialty recipes—as well as Kentucky Wild Gin. Our mission is simple: to someday be counted among the world’s great small distilleries. Becoming one of the great small distilleries of the world is a long term play, with no exact ring to win, or title to be declared.” 

“At New Riff, single barrel expressions are a way of life. As former Kentucky liquor retailers, we are intimately familiar with some of Kentucky’s most famed private barrel Bourbon selections ever, and we bring that experience to New Riff. Whether for trade or private clients, a New Riff Private Barrel selection offers an unparalleled experience, replete with tasting notes and an immersive process in our warehouse. Each New Riff single barrel has been tasted and approved by our production panel. Our retail and on-premise partners then select each of their private barrels themselves. So, in the end, you can taste New Riff Single Barrel Bottled in Bond bourbon knowing it was fully vetted and thoroughly tasted and approved.” –

They are correct in that every single barrel is a different experience. I had the pleasure of drinking barrel number 8835, barreled at 108 without chill filtration. 

Value – This Bourbon is not quite on par with other single barrels priced at this point. They should lower the price a bit considering its only aged 4 years and hasn’t won any prestigious awards yet. I’ve seen the price ranging from $48-$60.

Appearance – This bottle is pretty cool, but deceiving. It comes with a corked top. The upper portion of the bottle is painted black and fades into a clear glass revealing a deep amber colored bourbon. After you pour it into a glass, it doesn’t appear so deep in color. Nonetheless, the bottle looks awesome and it’s genius, so kudos to whoever designed it.

Nose – The aroma is faint and mostly hits you with some light ethanol. I get a few very faint notes of sweetness, brown sugar, caramel, maybe closer to creme brulee. I was surprised at the amount of ethanol coming off it. It really hits the nostrils and reminds you that it’s got a higher rye mash bill. I don’t notice any wood notes. However, the aroma is interesting. 

Palate – The first sip was interesting. It’s thick, full of that newer oak flavor. I get some light hints of sweet and some heavier spice. It’s a pretty hot bourbon for 108. I’ve seen this barreled in the upper 115-118s, so I imagine those really pack some heat. This is not a great sipping bourbon. I enjoy my bourbon neat, yet decided to throw some ice in this one.

Finish – The finish is lingering with heat. It feels heavy in the mouth and stays there. You get a very short sweetness and spice and then it turns into leaving your mouth feeling like it’s been coated with a new wood flavor. Not too enjoyable. It’s much better on the rocks since it waters it down, changing the heat and smoothness. 

Summary – This bourbon is lacking a lot. I think they are rushing the single barrel product with only 4 years in the cask. It’s packing a lot of heat, but it’s not good heat. Adding some ice helps mellow out the heavy heat and ethanol bringing out more of the flavors. I think New Riff is working on something good, but you can’t rush it. My particular single barrel wasn’t that great, however that doesn’t mean the others are the same. That’s the novelty of single barrels. I hope someone reading this article finds a New Riff single barrel that’s just incredible. I personally won’t venture into it again until they have a longer age statement.

“This is a bourbon that I probably won’t purchase again until it’s bottled with a longer age statement. Remember, all single barrels are different, so don’t let this review hinder you from trying one!”

– John McGowan


Uniqueness – 1-10 – 4

Appearance- 1-10 – 8

Nose- 1-20 – 9

Palate- 1-20 – 7

Finish- 1-20 – 7

Value- 1-20 – 6

Reviewed By:

John McGowan on 9/24/2022

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