New Riff Distilling opened in 2014 in Newport, KY, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, OH. New Riff sells a variety of products today, including Kentucky Wild Gin, New Make un-aged whiskey and an older bourbon called OKI Reserve. In 2018, New Riff’s bourbon and rye whiskey will be ready for the market as well. Bourbon and Barns recently caught up with New Riff’s VP of Operations and General Manager Hannah Lowen to talk about what’s going on at the distillery in Northern Kentucky.
Bourbon and Barns: How did New Riff Distilling get its start?
Hannah Lowen: New Riff opened in May of 2014, but the idea to open an independent Bourbon distillery was hatched a handful of years before that. Coming out of the Kentucky retail liquor industry, our owner and president Ken Lewis saw Newport, Ky. as the best place in the country to make quality craft Bourbon, firmly based in Kentucky, but with a new riff on an old tradition. This new riff on Bourbon would be Modern, Urban, and Quality Driven. Making a huge change in his career and following his entrepreneurial roots, he set forth on putting together a team of so-called corporate refugees all working toward a pretty lofty goal: to one day be considered one of the great small distilleries of the world.
BB: How big is the distillery?
HL: At New Riff we often describe ourselves as very big for a little guy, and very little for a big guy. We currently produce about 7,500 barrels a year, which compared to many of our colleagues n the craft distilling universe is a ton. However, compared to our Kentucky Bourbon Brethren, it’s a drop in the bucket. We are patiently waiting until our Bourbon and Rye turn four years old, as we believe those extra years are worth the wait. Our bottled portfolio now is limited to our Kentucky Wild Gin, New Make un-aged whiskey, and a merchant bottling of older Bourbon, O.K.I Reserve. All of these pale in comparison to the cases we’ll have out in the world come the end of 2018. As far as staff goes, the distillery is also home to the bustling New Riff Event Center, and we have close to 25 full time employees, with many other part time folks.