New Riff Single Barrel Rye

New Riff Single Barrel Rye Review

Meet Luke

Luke is a Level I Certified Whiskey Specialist with a passion for exploring and unearthing the best whiskeys around. Luke has a preference for Rye whiskeys but has tasted over 250 different whiskeys to date varying from bourbons to scotches. He continues to expand upon his whiskey knowledge by tasting dozens of bottles monthly and reviewing them here on Barrel and Brew as he pursues his Masters of Whiskey certification.

New Riff Distilling has been popping up more and more over the years, and it’s high time I wrote a review on New Riff Single Barrel Rye. I’m going to have some bias towards New Riff and their whiskeys for a couple reasons.

First, they are located just across the River from Cincinnati, which holds a special place in my heart. Second, they distill their own whiskey – I have no problem with non-producing distillers, but it’s still nice to see actual distilleries pop-up and give the big dogs a run for their money. Third, they use malted rye in their mash – which I love – and they experiment with all different kinds of grains and mashbills. It’s how I’d want to run a distillery.

But enough about me, let’s jump into this review. We’re going to discuss some of the history and different whiskeys produced by New Riff Distilling, and then we’re going to find out if New Riff Single Barrel Rye is good!

New Riff Single Barrel Rye

New Riff History

New Riff was founded in 2014 by Ken Lewis. They originally sourced whiskey from MGP under the brand O.K.I (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana). However, that was only until they could get their own whiskey distilled, aged, and ready for sale.

O.K.I was discontinued in 2018 as New Riff Rye and New Riff Bourbon hit the shelves.

While the history of New Riff Distilling is quite young, the history of their distilling practices are as old as bourbon itself.

New Riff Production Method

New Riff adheres to what they call the Kentucky Regimen when it comes to producing whiskey. This regimen uses a sour mash, open fermentation, copper column stills, and a doubler for a second round of distillation.

Furthermore, every New Riff whiskey is Bottled-in-Bond with the exception of Single Barrel expressions. So, the single barrel rye we are reviewing is not BiB, but if you opt for their standard rye or bourbon, it is.

What is Sour Mashing?

Sour mashing is the process of holding back a portion of the previous fermentation (after being distilled) and using it with the next batch that will be fermented.

The sour mash is full of dead yeast and enzymes. While this slows down the new yeast and the fermentation process, it significantly slows down bacteria. Bacteria, like yeast, eat sugars, but they do not produce alcohol like yeast does. Bacteria can also contribute to unwanted flavors. Sour mashing allows the yeast to out-produce bacteria by a wider margin than if you were to ferment a batch without a sour mash.

Open Fermentation, Copper Column Stills, Doubler

Open Fermentation is essentially co-fermenting the mash with distiller’s yeast and microflora.

Copper was originally used in distillation because it was cheap, malleable, and a good conductor of heat. Due to technological advances, those things aren’t as important. Now, copper is used because copper and sulfur from the grains react and form copper sulfate. Copper sulfate stays behind and the distillate continues on, cleaner. Column stills are used to create a continuous process of distillation.

A doubler is a secondary still used to distill the wash a second time in order to make the alcohol more concentrated or remove impurities.

New Riff Single Barrel Rye Overview

  • Spirit: Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey
  • Owned By: New Riff Distilling – Ken Lewis
  • Distilled By: New Riff Distilling
  • Barrel #: 5335
  • Aged: 4+ years
  • ABV: 53.25%, 106.5 proof
  • Mashbill: 95% rye, 5% malted rye
  • Price: ~$55 – 65

Let’s discuss some of the basics first. New Riff Single Barrel Rye, along with their standard rye, uses a 95% rye and 5% malted rye mash. Typically, when we talk about malt and malted grains, we’re talking about barley. However, more and more distilleries are starting to incorporate malted rye in their mashbills. Two of my favorite whiskeys use malted rye, High West Rendezvous Rye and Chattanooga Whiskey, so I’m excited to try New Riff.

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New Riff Single Barrel Rye does have a 4-yr age statement and is barrel proof at 53.25% ABV, meaning the whiskey wasn’t cut with any water after aging. New Riff Single Barrel Rye is also a ‘straight’ whiskey, meaning it was aged in new charred American oak for a minimum of two years (although we know it’s at least 4 years), and doesn’t contain any additives.

What is Single Barrel Whiskey?

Single barrel whiskey is whiskey that is exclusively from one barrel. Distilleries age their whiskey in barrels, and when it’s time to bottle their whiskey, they batch together a whole bunch of barrels in order to create a uniform and consistent product.

The bottle I purchased comes from Barrel # 5335.

That means that if you purchase New Riff Single Barrel Rye, your whiskey will be slightly different than mine unless it’s from the same barrel. Barrels account for some 50% or more of flavor, and things such as the floor it was aged on, the positioning among other barrels, the climate all have an effect on the taste. Furthermore, the whiskey will come out at a different proof based upon the factors above as well.

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New Riff Single Barrel Rye

New Riff Single Barrel Rye Tasting Notes

Okay, we’ve covered a lot about New Riff, distillation practices, the effects of aging, and more. Now it’s time to get down to the good stuff, the important stuff. The whiskey inside the bottle. So, is New Riff Rye good? Let’s find out.

Nose: Loads of spice. Lemon pepper, cinnamon, licorice, mint, oak & barrel char. A little bit of butterscotch. The nose has a very charred and roasted tone to it, lots of spice, fairly dark with a touch of lighter citrus and mint seeping through.

Palate: What I expected. Roasted, charred spice. Lots of hot, fiery cinnamon, with a slight touch of sugar. It tones down as you sip it and get acclimated. Caramel apples and mint, a touch of toffee.

Finish: Cinnamon spice, mint, a touch of oak, and pepper. It reminds me of the Big Red Cinnamon Gum.

Taste Summary

The first two or so sips were slightly overwhelming with hot spices, fiery may be a more accurate term, as that was all my mind could comprehend. It definitely calms down, but it can be a little powerful, especially if it’s your first drink of the night.

More flavors came out with caramel apples and mint, toffee and a slight black licorice.

I added a dash of water and the heat subsided, the oak was much more pronounced, and more of that caramel, vanilla, and toffee showed up.

This particular bottling/barrel of New Riff Single Barrel Rye may be a bit much for those who don’t love rye whiskey, but, for me, it just kept getting better with every sip. If the heat and spice is too much or if it’s dominating your taste buds, pour it over a cube or add a splash of water.


New Riff Single Barrel Rye is good whiskey. There’s enough complexity and a lot of rich flavors, as well as a fairly good mouthfeel for a 100% rye/malted rye whiskey – and it’s priced as such.

The New Riff Single Barrel expressions sell for about $55-65 depending upon individual store and location, though you may find it a bit cheaper or a bit more expensive at some stores.

I paid $63 for my bottle, and I’m very happy with it. I think the quality matches the price at the very least. And I’m very excited to try a bunch of their other whiskeys.

New Riff Single Barrel Rye Tasting Notes

New Riff Whiskeys

As I mentioned at the start, New Riff does a lot of experimentation with their whiskey production. As such, they have a ton of whiskeys that I’m super interested in trying.

Flagship Whiskeys

New Riff Flagship Whiskeys are simply their straight rye and bourbon which comes in their standard bottled in bond, or single barrel barrel proof.

Other Expressions

Other New Riff expressions include (every single whiskey listed below is Bottled in Bond):

  1. Backsetter Bourbon & Rye – Uses sour mash from a distillation using peat smoked barley
  2. Balboa Rye – Uses heirloom Balboa Rye
  3. 100% Malted Rye Whiskey – 100% malted rye mashbill….
  4. High Malted Rye Bourbon – Their standard bourbon mash, but malted rye instead of unmalted
  5. Malted Wheat Bourbon – 18% malted wheat, 10% unmalted wheat, 7% dark wheat
  6. Red Turkey Wheat Bourbon – 25% red turkey wheat
  7. Winter Whiskey – 20% malted oats, 7% pale ale malt, 5% steel cut raw oats, 3% chocolate malt

New Riff has produced 8 different whiskeys outside of their flagship products. Every single one of them is Bottled-in-Bond without chill filtration. These are some of the most unique American Whiskeys while still staying true to traditional whiskey.

Check out more information on their whiskeys and production methods at their website.


I, seemingly, love everything about New Riff Distilling. Of course, I don’t know everything about the business, the people, and their methods, but everything on the surface level seems to check out. They’re innovative, yet traditional. They push boundaries, yet stay true to American whiskey and bourbon.

All of this is great, but it only takes you so far. At the end of the day, you still have to make good whiskey. New Riff does. I may have only had whiskey from a single barrel that they’ve produced, but I’ll be expanding my collection soon.

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