New Riff Distilling announces the release of a bourbon and rye duo in early May, part of an ongoing exploration of the deep truths and deeper mysteries of the sour mash method. Like all New Riff whiskeys, the Backsetter whiskeys are crafted with the traditional, time-honored sour mash Kentucky regimen, which utilizes a portion of grain “backset” from a previous distillation in the mash of the new batch.
Utilizing backset from a distillation of peat-smoked malted barley and rye, these whiskeys are definitely a new riff on an old tradition.
Using the same mashbill as New Riff’s award-winning standard bourbon and rye recipes, co-founder Jay Erisman said the peat-smoked malted barley and rye backsets lend a smoky cast to the whiskeys. “They’re hauntingly unique, with layers of peat enveloping the spicy, rich rye and bourbon,” he says.
Generations of Kentucky distillers have touted the flavor influence of the sour mash technique — once considered almost mystical, New Riff’s distilling team applied their knowledge of how and why a backset influences the final product. And, using a previous distillation allows one recipe to inform the flavor of another, Erisman said. “It’s a small hint at the flavors developing in our warehouses — and a great reflection of how New Riff marries a commitment to tradition with a love of experimentation.”
New Riff Backsetter Bourbon has a rich, oaky nose at the forefront but with water opens to a broad field of grain and rye spice against a smoldering backdrop. The palate is soft-textured with the peat more immediate than on the nose. Juicy and zesty, a spicy rye top note at mid-palate is joined by smoke, oak, sweet corn and grassy rye. The finish pings between smoky peat and a peppery-clove rye note. Meanwhile, New Riff Backsetter Rye shows considerable peat at the front of the nose with hints of fruit and grassy rye, but a splash of water opens the bouquet and the peat retreats into top notes of grassy rye and subtle cinnamon spice. Medium- to full-bodied on the palate, rounded and chewy — and with quite a bit of peat that even Islay would be proud of — the Backsetter Rye’s midpalate of sugared fruit and cinnamon-allspice heads to a finish of wafting smoke and rye spice with notes of Thai long black pepper and grain of paradise.
Both the New Riff Backsetter Bourbon and Rye are bottled-in-bond without chill filtration and aged at least four years. The Backsetter Bourbon is 65% corn, 30% rye and 5% malted barley. The Backsetter Rye is 95% rye and 5% malted rye.
The Backsetter Bourbon and Rye will be available at suggested retail of $49.99 per bottle in limited quantity throughout portions of New Riff’s distribution footprint and through New Riff’s Whiskey Club.