New Riff Uses Heirloom Red Turkey Wheat in Latest Bourbon
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This Distillery is Using a Special Wheat for Bourbon; Here’s why

New Riff

The latest whiskey from New Riff Distilling, Red Turkey Wheated Kentucky Straight Bourbon, was made using heirloom Red Turkey Wheat. (Photo: New Riff)

New Riff Distilling announced a new whiskey Wednesday, a bourbon made from heirloom Red Turkey Wheat. The limited release Red Turkey Wheated Kentucky Straight Bourbon will be available in Kentucky markets in November.

The “heirloom” descriptor of a grain means it goes back several generations or more and hasn’t been genetically modified.

“Just like heirloom tomatoes, heirloom grains offer flavors and aromas that are distinct from — and often simply better than — modern hybridized grain varieties,” said co-founder Jay Erisman in a news release. “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.”

New Riff purchases its Red Turkey wheat from Cincinnati, Ohio-based Blue Oven Bakery.

New Riff ditched its usual high-rye focus for this high-wheat bourbon, which is bottled at 50% ABV. The bourbon’s mash bill consists of 70% corn, 25% Red Turkey wheat and 5% malted barley. The bourbon is aged more than five years and bottled without chill filtration.

New Riff will sell the bourbon for $49.99 a bottle.

Erisman said Red Turkey has more protein and less starch than modern wheat, which lowers the yield but offers more rich flavors.

“To our knowledge, this is the only Kentucky sour mash wheated bourbon produced in modern times from Red Turkey Wheat,” he said. “Wheated bourbon is very popular these days, but with few exceptions, it all uses modern hybrid wheat varieties.”

Tasting notes:

  • Nose: gristy-grainy-bready with a balance of oak and confection, dark fruits and a top note of citrus emerge in time
  • Taste: chewy and remarkably zesty, even citrusy, with moments of dark stewed fruit, moderately sweet and well-balanced, black cherry skin into the finish
  • Finish: complicated and exceptionally long, zesty and full of gristy grain character against bright citrus and dark fruit skin

Earlier this month, Jeptha Creed announced a bourbon using a type of heirloom corn called bloody butcher corn — named for its color.

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