New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon: Minnick vs. Rehwoldt

Today, I’m placing two heavyweights of the bourbon arena head to head: the incomparable Fred Minnick vs. Matt “Drama King” Rehwoldt a/k/a Wrestling with Whiskey. Each have 2021 New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon selections. Let’s find out who deserves the champion’s belt (ascot?).


Pour 1: New Riff SiB Bourbon 17-0126 (Minnick)
Proof: 104.3
Age: 4 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: honey-apple, caramelized peaches, boozy bread
Taste: seared caramel, brown sugar, charred maple
Finish: sweet & savory licorice, oak char, applewood


Pour 2: New Riff SiB Bourbon 16-2899 (Rehwoldt) 
Proof: 105.7
Age: 4 years
Color: amber
Nose: butter toffee, bright citrus fruit, cake frosting
Taste: cream soda, caramel candy, singed honey
Finish: well-balanced oak, toasted vanilla, pepper


Overall: Such interesting profile differences. Fred’s selection is darker, showcasing orchard fruit, boozy dessert, and a heavier oak presence (slightly reminiscent of mature Barton). Matt’s is primarily toffee, citrus fruit, and candy, with a gentler oak vibe (very much reminiscent of 8-year Wild Turkey). Fred’s barrel is arguably more unique, but Matt’s is … well, I think y’all know how this match ends.

Victor: Drama King.

Henry McKenna Single Barrel

Henry McKenna Single Barrel, also known as McKenna Bottled in Bond, McKenna 10, and Ascot Gold. Once an inexpensive and attainable bottle ($25 in 2015) … Good times, Minnick, good times. I’ve had great barrels and so-so barrels, but never one worth chasing. Let’s revisit.


Pour: Henry McKenna Single Barrel (b. 9105, 3-19-08)
Proof: 100
Age: 10 years
Color: rich honey
Nose: German chocolate cake, brown sugar, faint citrus
Taste: toasted caramel, English toffee, baked nutmeg
Finish: moderately long – dense oak, maple syrup, sweet tobacco


Overall: Well now, this is one beast of a pour. Henry McKenna Single Barrel is hitting all the right notes for me today. And German chocolate cake? Are you kidding me?! I don’t think I’ve ever sensed that note on a whiskey. Have to say, worth the $60 paid.

Rating: Fred’s Savage.

Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon

I first tasted Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon in 2019 on a trip to Kentucky. I had just wrapped up a barrel selection at Wild Turkey, so one could argue my palate wasn’t entirely fit for service. Now, it’s time to give this bottled-in-bond wheated bourbon a fair shot.


Pour: Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon (b. 16H29-8)
Proof: 100
Age: at least 4 years
Color: dense copper
Nose: cocoa-hazelnut, caramel popcorn, dark baking spice
Taste: boozy toffee, charred oak, toasted brown sugar
Finish: moderately long – vanilla extract, black licorice, leather


Overall: While there are some profile notes hovering youthful, there are just as many (or more) well-developed notes offsetting them. Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon is impressive for its age; it’s just not ready for primetime. Not yet, but soon.

Rating: Almost there.

Single Cask Nation 24-Year Bourbon

If you’ve ever wondered how bourbon aged in Scotland might taste, Single Cask Nation has you covered. Of course, the real question is: Is it any good? Twelve years in Kentucky followed by twelve years in Scotland … that’s a long time for barreled cornwater. This could get oaky.


Pour: Single Cask Nation KSBW (undisclosed distillery)
Proof: 94.8
Age: 24 years
Color: mahogany
Nose: vanilla bean, heavily steeped herbal tea, blood orange
Taste: smoky caramel, pipe tobacco, cherry cordials
Finish: moderate length – sweet oak char, black licorice, leather 


Overall: Damn, that’s complex. Curiously easy on the palate too. For a rumored “pre-fire” bourbon, SCN’s 24-year rarity isn’t exactly dusty in profile. It isn’t modern either. It’s gracefully confounding: robust, delicate, dense, intelligent.

Rating: Heavenly hills of flavor.

John J. Bowman

Ever see what people are paying for Rock Hill Farms on secondary markets? Pathetic, right? I’m guessing they’ve never tasted the $50 John J. Bowman, a lesser-known, 100-proof, single-barrel bourbon from another Sazerac brand. Oh, well. As you’ll soon find out … their loss.


Pour: John J. Bowman Single Barrel Bourbon
Proof: 100
Age: not stated (reportedly 9-10 years)
Color: amber
Nose: cherry-vanilla frosting, caramel, cream soda
Taste: dried fruit, butter toffee, nutmeg, sugar glaze
Finish: moderately long – sweet oak char, Luden’s cherry, faint pepper


Overall: They say John J. Bowman starts out as Buffalo Trace distillate. It’s redistilled twice over by A. Smith Bowman, then aged and bottled in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Whatever the process, it not only tastes like 100-proof Buffalo Trace, it tastes better.

Rating: Horsey killer.

Murray Hill Club

Resurrecting a long-retired whiskey label isn’t anything new. In fact, it’s pretty damn common. But resurrecting a long-retired whiskey label and emulating a 122-year old bottle’s flavor profile, that takes talent and skill. Enter Nancy Fraley and Magnus’ Murray Hill Club.


Pour: Murray Hill Club (b. 19)
Proof: 103
Age: NAS (reportedly 9-yr light whiskey & 11-18-yr bourbon)
Color: copper
Nose: creme brûlée, sugar plum, woody spice
Taste: vanilla bean, dark fruit, hints of cedar & tobacco
Finish: moderately long – sweet oak char, toasted caramel, leather


Overall: An impressive, well-crafted whiskey. Murray Hill Club is the best blended bourbon I’ve tasted to date – one that sets a new precedent for American whiskey lacking a straight designation. Complex and graced with elegance, it’s a triumph for Magnus.

Rating: Masterful.

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Discovery Series No. 2

Bardstown Bourbon Co.’s Discovery Series is an ultra-premium line featuring sourced whiskeys of various ages and mash bills. The second release is composed of 10-, 12-, and 14-year bourbons (undisclosed origins), each distilled in Kentucky with rye as the secondary grain.


Pour: Bardstown Bourbon Co. Discovery Series No. 2
Proof: 122.2
Age: 10 years
Color: rich copper
Nose: salted caramel, honey-roasted nuts, dark citrus
Taste: brown sugar, charred oak, baked cinnamon
Finish: moderately long – vanilla spice, cola, clove gum


Overall: A robust, well-rounded, satisfying pour. While not unlike other bourbons in its class, Bardstown’s Discovery No. 2 brings its share to the table. The sole negative is its $130 price. Quite an expense considering similarly aged options.

Rating: Hefty pour, hefty price.

Old Forester 1920

Old Forester’s Whiskey Row series cemented new interest in a heritage brand many enthusiasts largely ignored. One might argue Birthday Bourbon as an exception, though most rarely see that annual release. No biggie. Who needs Birthday Bourbon with Old Forester 1920 around?


Pour: Old Forester 1920
Proof: 115
Age: at least 4 years
Color: rosy copper
Nose: vanilla bean, charred banana, dense oak
Taste: toasted caramel, brown sugar, woody spice
Finish: long w/ waves of molasses, chocolate, and baked cinnamon


Overall: A deliciously bold bourbon with a robust profile all its own. If you’re looking for a whiskey with the style and character of a fancy limited edition, but don’t want to pay a fortune or waste time finding it, Old Forester 1920 damn sure delivers.

Rating: Ol’ Fo-Sure!

Elijah Craig Small Batch

Elijah Craig is one of the few bourbons I can think of that immediately improved after its age statement was dropped. Some may disagree, but that’s the way I see it. I was never a fan of the 12-year iteration – a rather woody, mildly tannic pour. As for its successor …


Pour: Elijah Craig Small Batch
Proof: 94
Age: at least 4 years (reportedly 8-12 years)
Color: amber
Nose: vanilla, honey-butter, orange peel
Taste: salted caramel, sweet oak, butter toffee
Finish: moderate length – buttered cornbread, peppery spice


Overall: Remarkably solid. I’m sure I’ve recommended other bottles as “starter bourbons,” but I’m beginning to think Elijah Craig is best suited for the task. Not that it should encompass a single role. It’s just damn good mellow whiskey for $27.

Rating: Butter than ever.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 009

Years before Geo. Dickel sourced celebrity bourbon was hawked at $200 a bottle, Barrell Craft Spirits was offering Tullahoma’s finest at a reasonable price. They still do, though not always whiskey from Tennessee. Here’s an oldie but goodie, Barrell Bourbon Batch 009.


Pour: Barrell Bourbon Batch 009
Proof: 113.1
Age: 13 years
Color: rich copper
Nose: Ruby Red grapefruit, vanilla-orange candy, heady spice
Taste: toasted caramel, zesty dark citrus, fruity charred oak
Finish: long & robust – orange-grape soda, sweet mineral notes, black pepper


Overall: Not a whiskey for crybabies. We’re talking dense, layered, robust Dickel at its peak. And surprisingly, it’s not the Flintstone Vitamin bomb one might expect. Barrell Bourbon Batch 009 is blending done right – an in-your-face, full-flavored powerhouse.

Rating: Wowza.

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut

Part innovation, part obligatory liquor store window wrap, it’s Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. But seriously, what is it? Essentially, whiskey extracted from staves of emptied barrels batched with standard Beam bourbon. (If it were good, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?) Moving along.


Pour: Jim Beam Devil’s Cut
Proof: 90
Age: at least 4 years
Color: dense copper
Nose: whole-grain bread, sharp vanilla, sappy oak
Taste: polished leather, black pepper, astringent spice
Finish: moderate length – Splenda, singed maple syrup, walnut shell


Overall: Imagine similar oak notes to Knob Creek, only sharp, astringent, and strangely bitter, that’s Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. Unpleasant, yet admittedly drinkable, it’s exactly as the name implies. But let’s give the devil his due – there’s worse for $20.

Rating: Tolerable Hell.

Larceny Bourbon

Riding the fringe of Old Fitzgerald folklore is Larceny, a non-age-stated wheated mash bill bourbon produced by Heaven Hill. It’s not as talked about as its barrel-proof namesake, but to its credit, the original 92-proof iteration is affordable ($25) and widely available.


Pour: Larceny Bourbon
Proof: 92
Age: at least 4 years
Color: amber
Nose: vanilla, fresh dough, maraschino cherry
Taste: silky caramel, mellow oak, honey-butter
Finish: moderately short – mild baking spice, faint leather 


Overall: Entry-level wheated recipe bourbons are a mixed bag. Maker’s Mark is sweet and lively; Weller Special Reserve is sweet and buttery. As for Larceny, the sweeter notes find suitable balance with the oak. It’s just overly mild and uninspiring.

Rating: Eye-roll smooth.