New Riff Distilling recently announced its newest bourbon, made from heirloom Red Turkey Wheat, that distillers hope will push forward their passion for unique mashbills.
The limited release Red Turkey Wheated Kentucky Straight Bourbon will be available in limited quantities throughout New Riff’s home market, Kentucky, this November.
“Just like heirloom tomatoes, heirloom grains offer flavors and aromas that are distinct from, and often simply better than, modern hybridized grain varieties,” said New Riff co-founder Jay Erisman, in a prepared statement. “We enjoy helping to preserve these old grains, but the real reason we do it is for the flavor in the glass. We wondered what wheated bourbon would’ve tasted like 100 years ago, before modern agriculture bred so much flavor out of wheat in exchange for ever-increasing yields and ease of transport and storage.”
Erisman said Red Turkey has more protein and less starch than modern wheats, decreasing yield but offering what he feels is a far wider and richer depth of flavors.
“To our knowledge, this is the only Kentucky sour mash wheated bourbon produced in modern times from Red Turkey Wheat,” he explained. “Wheated bourbon is very popular these days, but with few exceptions it all uses modern hybrid wheat varieties.”
New Riff’s whiskey makers have been on the hunt for heirloom grains since the early years of the distillery, Erisman said, including Balboa Rye and heirloom corn varieties like Yellow Leaming and Blue Clarage.
It was in 2016 when New Riff reached out to local artisan bread-makers, Blue Oven Bakery, and asked if they were using any heirloom grains. They formed a partnership, with New Riff purchasing Red Turkey Wheat from the bakery.
For this first batch of Red Turkey Wheated Bourbon, the wheat was grown in Ohio and sourced from Blue Oven Bakery — and mashed with New Riff’s standard, non-GMO supply of corn and malted barley.
“Every alcoholic beverage ever made begins with a plant,” Erisman said. “We choose to celebrate and save these heirloom grains and the flavors they make — lest they disappear forever.”
The new Red Turkey Wheated Kentucky Straight Bourbon delivers “gristy, grainy, bready” notes on the nose, Erisman said, with a balance of oak and confection, dark fruits and a top citrus note.
On the palate, the bourbon is “chewy and remarkably zesty, even citrusy,” with moments of dark stewed fruit. Erisman said it is moderately sweet and well-balanced, with hints of black cherry skin on the finish. He described the finish as “complicated and exceptionally long, zesty and full of grain character” against bright citrus and dark fruit skin.
New Riff Red Turkey Wheat is made with 70% corn, 25% Red Turkey Wheat, 5% malted barley. It’s aged at least five years and bottled-in-bond at 100 proof at a suggested retail price of $49.99 per 750mL bottle.
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