By Emily Mullis
New Riff Distilling is a band of “corporate refugees” embarked on a mission to create high-quality whiskey. Sounds typical of any small distillery, but their passion for quality and ingenuity shows in their whiskey. There are lots of “specialty” whiskeys out there and most are a bit overdone with little complexity and mostly all talk. Winter Whiskey walked the talk. Now, it’s by no means the best specialty whiskey out there and not a personal favorite but it is a whiskey to recommend, especially through the winter season. It’s in the name after all.
Winter whiskey is a straight bourbon made with oats and chocolate malt. * Again, malt isn’t a personal favorite flavor, but it works in this whiskey. The inspiration came from chocolate oatmeal stouts that was, apparently, a favorite in the crew’s brewing history. It’s no surprise as chocolate stouts are well received among beer connoisseurs during the winter months. To take the flavor and add it to a whiskey is just genius. Non-beer drinkers out there will enjoy the chocolate malt and oat notes in this whiskey. It’s great for the holidays and all-around throughout the colder months.
As stated above, this isn’t an outstanding whiskey but honestly who’s complaining? Personally, outstanding is something that should be sipped twice, maybe three times a year. New Riff’s Winter Whiskey is great for the season. The bottle itself is tinted which makes the whiskey appear much darker than it is. In a glass, the shade is dark amber, even deep orange. Really, a beautiful color, and partakers of this whiskey should take a beat to admire it. The bottle is gorgeous as not many whiskey bottles are tinted and the dark finish adds to the winter theme.
New Riff claims it’s unlike anything they’ve made to date, and that makes sense, as there are so many taste notes to go around. There is the dry cocoa of the chocolate malt, the oak spices, and the bourbon flavor. While all this seems to be something complex, it’s actually a mellow whiskey, not at all overwhelming. There is a dominant vanilla taste with hints of malt, and even a little nectarine (as stated by one very particular taster). It has a silky mouth thanks to the oat with a nice coating and a mild burn.
The nose is heavy on the vanilla and sweet with hints of leather and chocolate. The finish is not strong but neither is it light. Here, the taster gets more of the burn as well as more malt notes. For anyone who enjoys a good straight bourbon, this might not be well received. For those who enjoy spices, chocolate stouts, and all things unique, this a good whiskey to try. It’s important to note that while chocolate is in the name it is not heavy in the flavor which was a bit of a worry initially. Overall, it is silky, smooth, light on the burn, and genuinely unique.
Winter Whiskey runs about $35-$50 in stores, with an official price point of $50.
Editor’s Note: The full mash bill of Winter Whiskey is 65% Corn; 20% malted oats and 5% raw, steel-cut oats; 7% pale ale malt and 3% chocolate malt.