New Riff’s Bourbon & Rye Backsetter Release Has a Twist – A Peat-Smoked Malted Barley Sour Mash ‘Backset’
New Riff Distilling in Newport, Kentucky has released not just one but two new whiskeys. Both feature New Riff’s Bottled-in-Bond tradition so you know these both arrive as straight whiskeys of 100 proof with at least four years of age on them. As the distillery name implies they like to put a ‘new riff’ on the whiskey making and this batch is no exception.
Traditional Mash Bill with a Peat-Smoked Malted Barley Backset
The first half of this duo uses the standard New Riff bourbon mash bill of 65% corn, 30% rye and 5% malted barley. The difference in this Backsetter release is a variation on the sour mash process. Typically, a sour mash process uses a portion of grain “backset” from a previous distillation of a like kind mash bill. In the case of Backsetter they used a different backset made up of a distillation of peat-smoked malted barley. A traditional blend or mingling of spirits typically takes place after aging. The Backsetter process let’s that mingling take place up front during the distillation process.
The second half of the duo uses New Riff’s standard rye whiskey mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted rye. Then just like the bourbon whiskey the sour mash process uses a backset from a previous distillation of peat-smoked malted barley. There are definitely some logistics required to make this process work.
Backsetter is Hauntingly Unique with Layers of Peat
Generations of distillers have touted the flavor influence of the sour mash technique. 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.
“The peat-smoked malted barley backset lends a smoky cast to the whiskeys,” said New Riff Distilling Co-Founder Jay Erisman. “They’re hauntingly unique, with layers of peat enveloping the spicy, rich rye and bourbon.
“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 & Rye Tasting Notes
The tasting notes provided by New Riff say that 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 remarkably soft-textured with the peat more immediate than on the nose. Juicy and zesty, a spicy rye top note at midpalate is joined by smoke, oak, sweet corn and grassy rye. The finish pings between smoky peat and a peppery-clove rye note.
The 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.
New Riff Distilling Backsetter Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey and Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey are both bottled-in-bond without chill filtration and aged at least four years. Each product is a blend of 12-13 barrels, yielding just over 900 6-pack cases combined — so a very small release. They both have a suggested retail price of $49.99 per bottle in limited quantity throughout New Riff’s Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Nashville, California and D.C. distribution area and through New Riff’s Whiskey Club.
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New Riff Distilling’s Backsetter Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon & Rye Whiskey