By Richard Thomas
Malted rye in whiskey is not a novelty anymore. It’s modern use started with that example of craft whiskey before craft whiskey became a thing, Old Potrero, which was making 100% malted rye back in the 1990s. While not quite commonplace, the use of malted rye is widespread enough that one needn’t look very hard to find examples, but that is in rye whiskeys.
The use of malted rye in bourbon is still rare, appearing in one-shot expressions, such as the Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Chocolate Malted Rye Bourbon. So it is that New Riff Distillery is living up to their billing of putting a new riff on an old tradition with their Maltster series. One Maltster whiskey uses malted wheat, a true novelty. This one uses malted rye and plenty of it: 30% of the mash bill, making it a high malted rye at that.
The malted high rye mash bill should have made this a spicier, more robust bourbon according to convention wisdom, so how this whiskey actually turned out and defied that convention must come down to the malted rye and the often overlooked element of yeast. That starts with its look, sitting on the place where light red amber and dark, sooty copper meet.
The nose is quite unexpected and far outside the usual bourbon footprint, leading with pine, mint, peaches and citrus oil, with just a hint of the more familiar creamy caramel. The flavor moved back into more familiar territory, however, but leaning very heavily on its fruity aspect. Peaches dominate in a basket of stone fruits, seasoned with vanilla and tinged with oaky wood spice. That last part is what carries over into the finish, with the bourbon going down a touch spicy.
A bottle of this interesting, tasty bourbon goes for $49.99.