One of my favorite trips is to Newport, Kentucky to visit the New Riff Distillery. Rosemary and I like to book a room in Cincinnati for a weekend. While there, we will visit one of my favorite people, Molly Wellman at her bar in Cincinnati — Japps — named for the German wig maker who owned the building in the 19th century. We will plan lunch at the Hofbrauhaus German Restaurant, just down the road from the distillery, and then take a tour at New Riff.
New Riff Distillery is a 21st century distillery built when the owner of the Party Source Liquor Store, Ken Lewis, decided to get into the distilling business. He had to sell Party Source, in this case, to his employees because he could not legally own both businesses. He then built the distillery at one end of the huge parking lot owned by the store. The name, “New Riff” comes from his love of music and he wanted to create a “new riff” on the old distilling song. That he has done. The building is a beautiful, modern design and as you enter the parking lot, the tower holding the column still is glass on the parking lot side, allowing you to see the still.
You enter into the gift shop, filled with the typical branded items such as glassware, shirts, caps, and bottles for purchase, but it also has many other fun items related to whiskey. You check in at the desk and then take the tour. It starts with a brief history of the distillery before moving up to the mash floor. They make several different types of whiskeys. They are known for their Bourbon and Ryes, but they often have some experimental products in the mash tubs. I love their 100% malted rye whiskey. From the mash floor you move into the distillery itself. They have a very impressive column with a pot still doubler. They don’t have on-site warehousing but the tour does include a brief look at where and how they age their whiskeys. The tour ends with a tasting of their products.
New Riff has always had a good relationship with the MGP Distillery, just down the road in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. The people at MGP have helped them build their distillery and make their whiskey with advice, but this is not MGP whiskey. New Riff Distillery has taken the advice, but often do things differently because they want to create their own styles and tastes. For their fans, they have a club that allows the members to get early notice and first picks for new products and special releases. The distillery also has event space available and I have been to meetings of the Greater Cincinnati Bourbon Society there in the past.
After leaving the distillery, a trip over to Party Source is a must for whiskey fans. They have always had a great selection of Bourbon and Rye whiskeys. This store was one of the first in Kentucky to make Bourbon a priority and carried everything the distributor would supply to them. They have a huge selection of other spirits, wine and beer, as well as a walk-in humidor for the cigar smoker.
A trip to New Riff is a great way to spend a weekend trip in Northern Kentucky. A long weekend could also include tours of the Old Pogue Distillery down the road in Maysville, Kentucky or to Neeley Family Distillery in Sparta, or Boone County Distillery in Independence, Kentucky. These tours will be time well spent.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller
April 1, 2022 at 11:13 am
Great post!! I need to get New Riff. The distillery looks amazing and I love my bottle of single barrel I was lucky enough to receive at my first (in person) event for the Bourbon Women Association; it was a “bottle exchange” event with the Atlanta branch. And I totally agree that Japp’s is a must-visit when in Cincinnati. It’s iconic. My husband and I went there several years ago when I was researching that city’s historic OTR neighborhood (where my grandmother grew up in the 1920s and which forms a key setting in my first novel). For subscribers here who are on Instagram, Molly has a fun page to follow @mollywellman.
April 17, 2022 at 9:26 pm
Molly is one of my heroes as a bar owner and a mixologist. She is definitely worth following on social media.
April 1, 2022 at 1:43 pm
Heading there on 4/27 to pick a barrel – thanks for the insight!
April 17, 2022 at 9:27 pm
You are welcome.
April 3, 2022 at 10:00 pm
So….where do they age their whiskeys? (Their website explains how they age the whiskeys with toasted and charred barrels, some extra air dried, but not where they are stored.)