Ever since New Riff Bourbon hit the shelves here in Minnesota a few months ago, I have been very high on the company. There has been a bottle of one of their whiskeys on my shelf since that first taste. Locally, it sells for a decent price and the quality is very good.
Due to that, it should come as no surprise that, on my last trip to Louisville, I decided to make the almost two hour trip to visit the distillery. They offer three tours. The Bonded Tour for $10, which runs everyday Tuesday through Sunday, shows you the distillery itself. The Barrel Proof Tour is $20. It is offered every other Wednesday evening and takes you out to the aging warehouses. The Inside the Lab Tour is $35 and is offered the last Thursday evening of each month and takes you inside the lab along with a member of the distilling team. It was an easy decision for me as I was in the area for the weekend so the only offering available to me was the Bonded Tour. All of the tours include $10 off of a $25 purchase in the gift shop the day of your tour.
If you are a long time bourbon lover, you may be familiar with the Party Source, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio. If so, you know exactly where New Riff Distilling is located as they share a parking lot. In fact, the two companies share more than a parking lot. The former owner of the Party Source was one of the founders of New Riff. As it is against the law to be both a producer and a retailer (or distributor for that matter), he sold the Party Source to the employees when he decided to start New Riff. It works out well though, the store is very convenient if you want to do a little shopping after your tour.
Our tour started outside the building. Here we got a great view of the column still though the all glass still room. Our tour was on a day they weren’t running, but I have to imagine that the still room gets extremely warm with both the heat of the still and all that glass focusing heat from outside. After our tour guide gave us the brief history of the company that I related above, we moved around the building to see the grain receiving and storage areas while he explained that they get their corn locally from non-GMO sources and source the malt and rye from overseas. And of course, he mentioned that they give the spent grains to local farmers for cattle feed.
After we saw where the grain arrived, we got to see a bit of what they did with it. That is, we saw their 5600-gallon fermenters. At this stop, the tour guide told us their tagline “A New Riff on an Old Tradition.” He explained that while they recognize and respect the past of Kentucky Bourbon, they wanted to be sure that they were playing their own riff on it. He explained it as Jimmy Hendrix playing the Star Spangled Banner. You know the song, but you can tell who the artist is too. To that end, one of the first hires they made was a very experienced brewer. That’s right, a brewer, not a distiller. Having worked for the Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) for many years, he was experienced in fermentation and since that is where the whiskey-making process starts, it made sense to start there.
After we learned about the fermenters, we visited the grain milling room, the cooker and were told about their water. New Riff is very proud of their water. When they started planning for the distillery, they found that there was an aquifer right under the property. They dug their own private well and use this water in many parts of the production process. First and foremost, they use it in the cooking of grains. Since it comes out of the ground at 58° F all year round, they also use it in the cooling process for both the cooker and the fermenters.
The next stop was the Still Room. This is where we were lucky that it was the distilleries day off. Not only could we hear our tour guide, but we didn’t leave the room feeling like we’d just been steamed. All of these stops took place in a relatively small area. In fact you can see both the cooker and the door to the still room in the image of the fermenter above. This is not a big distillery, it’s just bigger than most small distilleries.
After the visiting the Still Room, we were taken to where the whiskey leaves the facility. They don’t age on-site. If you want to see that campus, they offer tours to the aging facility as part fo the Barrel Proof Tour. We did get to taste a few whiskeys in this room though. We tasted the Bonded Bourbon that is their flagship product, a single barrel that is sold at barrel proof, and their Bonded Rye. All of their products are non-chill filtered, and their whiskies are either Bottled in Bond or barrel strength and at least four years old.
If you are in the Cincinnati area, I’d highly recommend a visit. New Riff is doing a lot of things right and it shows in their products. Having had their bourbons, I walked out with a bottle of the Bonded Rye and a bottle of their barrel-aged gin (they don’t call it that because legally they can’t, even though that is what is happening). Look for the rye review on Thursday and the gin one sometime this summer.
BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products and bourbon-related craft supplies I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. And hey, if you are an iOS user, look for Bourbon Guy in Apple News. Thanks!