New Riff Distilling Tour Review

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New Riff Distilling, just across the Ohio river from Cincinnati, is a mid-sized craft distillery specializing in Bottled-In-Bond bourbons and ryes. They offer a variety of tours and tastings, covering the bourbon making process from grain to glass. Some tours even allow guests to taste straight from the barrel and make their own blends! Before or after tours, guest can enjoy a cocktail or neat pour in New Riff's Aquifer Bar, which offers scenic views of the Ohio River and Cincinnati. Learn more in our full review!
New Riff Distilling
24 Distillery Way
Newport KY 41073
859-261-RIFF (7433)
www.newriffdistilling.com
Tour Review

Please enjoy our New Riff Distilling Tour Review!

New Riff Distilling Opened in 2014

A stone’s throw from the imposing Ohio River lies the home of New Riff Distilling.  Located in Newport on the KY side of the river, the modern industrial style building has an entrancing glass facade which beautifully displays the workhorse of the distillery, its 60 foot Vendome copper column still. The distillery opened in 2014 and is a mid-sized craft distillery which in part loosely refers to the number of gallons produced per year. After their expansion in 2021, New Riff now has the capacity to produce around 12,000 barrels of whiskey a year.  This urban distillery shares the exceptionally large parking lot with its well known neighbor, The Party Source, a liquor superstore. In fact, New Riff co-founder Ken Lewis sold that business to begin this new adventure in distilling.

Side View - New Riff Distilling Tour Review
Tours & Tastings

Due to Covid-19 rules and restrictions, the only tour offered at the time of our initial visit in July 2020, was the Bonded Tour. This $20 tour covers distillation from grain to glass and finishes with a tasting.  Reservations are available online and are encouraged. Currently, a variety of different tours are now available and include:

  • Bonded Tour – Covers the entire distilling process at New Riff, followed by a tasting; $10 coupon included for use in the gift shop (certain exclusions apply); 45-60 minutes; $20
  • Barrel Proof Tour – A tour of New Riff’s West Newport Warehouse Campus including tasting straight from the barrel; $10 gift shop coupon included; offered only twice a month at 7pm; $35
  • WHSKY NRD – Evening classes consisting of stories and spirits; offered around once per month; $55
  • Blend – A blending experience where visitors create their own blend (to take home) from 3 different barrels; offered 2-3 times per month; $90
  • The Hits: A Guided Tasting Experience – A 30 minute guided tasting including Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon and Rye as well as a duo of specialty Whiskey Riffs; Saturday at 1pm; $25
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: Tour and Tastings offerings may vary and have limited availability. Visit the New Riff Distilling website for details and to make reservations
Doubler - New Riff Distilling Tour Review
Doubler – New Riff Distilling Tour Review
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Our Tour

After a brief stop inside the gift shop to check in, we met our tour guide and brand ambassador, Grover, outside under the awning of the distillery entrance. The tour began here with Grover first covering pandemic do’s and don’t’s; fortunately is no longer an issue. With housekeeping duties complete, the tour was underway.

Column Still - New Riff Distilling Tour Review
Column Still
Frootbat - Making hard to find liquor easy to buy

Our Tour Began Outside

The tour at New Riff is a bit unique. Most distilleries follow a grain to glass order,  However, at New Riff, the tour began outside in front of its towering copper column still.   Grover first explained the distillation process making special note of New Riff’s water source. No Newport or Ohio River water here. New Riff has the very good fortune to be sitting on top of the ideal aquifer for making bourbon. This gold standard water checks all the boxes, a neutral pH of 7, it’s loaded with yeast loving minerals, and it maintains a year round temperature of 58 degrees. We continued around the outside of the building with stops at the 2 enormous stillage tanks and the equally gigantic grain silos. Grover briefly explained the purpose of the each followed by a quick discussion of their grain sources and milling process.  The tour then headed inside to barreling.

Frootbat - Making hard to find liquor easy to buy

Barreling

As required, New Riff Distilling uses new charred oak barrels to age their bourbon and rye, and in addition, they add a toast to each barrel. This extra step differs from charring in that the barrels are heated, but not ignited as in charring. They are then held at a high temperature for a prolonged time, much like toasting bread. This is a unique twist, as it was not a common practice among distilleries, although that has changed. Toasting brings more sugars into play during the aging process and helps the distillery achieve its particular flavor profile.

Barrel Filling Station
Barrel Filling Station

While barrels are filled on site, due to the lack of space at the distillery, they are stored at the New Riff west campus located about 2 miles away. Since our visit, New Riff has built an off-site warehouse with a capacity for 40,000 barrels in nearby Silver Grove, KY. Unfortunately, there’s no rickhouse visit on this tour. However, the Barrel Proof Tour does visit the West Newport Warehouse campus.

Mash Cooker - New Riff Distilling Tour Review
Mash Cooker – New Riff Distilling Tour Review
The Main Production Area

From the barreling area, the tour headed up to the second floor production area for an up close and personal view of the mash cooker, fermentation tanks, and the still. Things have changed a little since our original visit as the distillery has undergone an 800 square foot expansion, and 3 additional fermenters were added.

Fermenters
Fermenters

The production area was the final stop on the tour before the tasting. Here Grover covered both the cooking process and the fermentation process a bit more in depth and afterwords, we were able to step directly into the still area and get a great view from bottom to top. This wrapped up the distillery tour portion of our visit and then it was off to the tasting. 

Column Still - New Riff Distilling Tour Review
Column Still – New Riff Distilling Tour Review
The Tasting

Tastings at New Riff take place in their Aquifer Bar located on the top floor the the distillery.  Due to social distancing, the tasting was not as intimate as tastings tend to be, although fortunately, that is no longer an issue. Grover, however did a good job of guiding us. There were 5 tastes included with the tour: New Riff Small Batch Bourbon and Rye, New Riff Barrel Proof bourbon, and New Riff Wild Gin and Bourbon Barreled Gin.

Aquifer Outdoor Deck
Aquifer Outdoor Deck

Once the tasting was completed, we took advantage of our surroundings and enjoyed some of Aquifer’s tasty handcrafted cocktails. The ambiance in the Aquifer Bar is terrific because the expansive glass windows on both sides of the bar offer wonderful scenic views of the Ohio River as well as the downtown Cincinnati and Newport areas. There is also an equally impressive outdoor patio with ample seating for more viewing opportunities. Recently, the Aquifer has undergone further expansion including the construction of a much larger bar. In addition to craft cocktails, they also serve neat pours, flights, wine, beer and limited light bites.

Gift Shop
Gift Shop
Conclusion – New Riff Distilling Tour Review

We ended our visit back where we first began, the New Riff gift shop.  There are plenty of items to shop. From hats and shirts, to mixers and barware, and of course plenty of New Riff bourbon, rye, and gin, all available for purchase. New Riff Distilling is part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour as well as the B-Line of northern Kentucky.  Whether you’re considering a tour or just stopping in for a cocktail, check out this city distillery’s “New Riff” on an old tradition.

Would you like to learn about some of New Riff’s whiskeys? Then check out our New Riff 8 Year Bourbon Review, New Riff Single Malt Review and our New Riff Malted Rye Whiskey Review!

Original Visit: July 2020; Updated April 2024

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