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Newport's New Riff Distilling has been in operation since 2014, but nothing says “We’ve arrived!” like a whiskey you’ve distilled, aged, branded, bottled, and sold all on your own premises. Today New Riff is doing just that. It's an unmistakable product of unmistakable quality, and from now on it'll be aged in New Riff's recently unveiled whiskey campus in west Newport. ADDRESS (Distillery): 24 Distillery Way (41073) / ADDRESS (Whiskey Campus): 1104 Lowell Street (41073) / Image: Mike Bresnen // Published: 8.27.18

New Digs, Old Bourbon: Why New Riff Distilling Can Run with the Big Dogs

It’s been a landmark few weeks for New Riff Distilling.

At the end of July they unveiled their first aged whiskey, a four-year-old bourbon encased in one of the most beguiling bottle designs you’ve ever seen. Now they’re taking the bubble wrap off their new whiskey campus. It’s located on the Licking River in west Newport, and it’s absolutely gorgeous.

The occurrences are something of a coming out party for New Riff, a strong declaration of intent to friends and rivals.

Yes, they’ve been in operation since 2014. And yes, last year alone they produced 7,500 bottles of spirits while hosting 30,000 visitors for tours and private events.

Still, nothing says “We’ve arrived!” like a whiskey you’ve distilled, aged, branded, bottled, and sold all on your own premises. Today New Riff is doing just that, and everyone in the region should be taking note.


The story of New Riff will always be bound up in the two mammoth traditions that converge around it.

On one side there’s the cultural obsession with Kentucky bourbon country. Bourbon alone is an industry worth billions, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail puts the state’s most distinguished makers—and the state itself—on the world stage.

On the other side there’s Cincinnati, whose historic importance to beer and whiskey in the United States cannot be overstated. Prohibition was certainly a bummer in that regard, but today both sides of the river are enjoying an outstanding urban renaissance, and beer and whiskey are at the center of it.

New Riff exists between those traditions. And it exists within them. They’ve been a stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail since they were founded, and the new whiskey campus promises to draw even more visitors in the years to come.

But they’re also proud residents of Greater Cincinnati, and as a symbol of that pride they hosted the celebration of their new aged bourbon on the Purple People Bridge. More than two thousand whiskey-lovers from across the region attended, and there was much rejoicing.


There was much lip smacking too. And brow furrowing. And the uttering of phrases like, “Holy crap, that’s really good.”

Because New Riff’s aged bourbon is really good. It’s been bottled in bond without chill filtration, which basically means it was all distilled at the same time and nothing has been taken out of it. That’s an extremely high bar for a distiller’s baseline bourbon. But New Riff has a new riff on the old formula for success. It's all about quality, and right now they’re delivering.

In terms of taste, the whiskey has big and spicy flavors. This is not a light, delicate, or simple offering. The experience they’ve crafted is fulsome and robust, from the sweet, oaky start to the rye-led finish. It’s simply extraordinary.

Also extraordinary is the whiskey campus where all future New Riff spirits will be aged. The campus includes space for 18,000 barrels of bourbon and rye whiskey in two rehabilitated historic buildings and a new 15-barrel-high rickhouse. The romance of Kentucky bourbon country is everywhere, especially in the oaky smell that perfumes the entire facility. But it has a uniquely urban feel as well, one those following the Bourbon Trail are sure to seek out and fall in love with.

You should do the same. Take a tour, host an event, or do a private tasting with 14 of your best friends. It’s the best way to celebrate—and participate in—everything New Riff represents. Here’s what you can look forward to:

The Bonded Tour: Get a firsthand look through the nooks and crannies of New Riff’s bourbon distilling process, from grain to barrel. Each tour is followed by a complimentary tasting.

The Barrel Proof Tour: Explore the “back of the house” operations at the new West Newport Whiskey Campus. There you’ll witness the turn-of-the-century architecture home to New Riff’s bottling hall and tasting rooms. You’ll also get to taste New Riff Bourbon theived directly from the barrel.

Inside The Lab: Join the New Riff team on this unique and intimate tour and tasting. You’ll join a member of the distilling team for a walk through the production floor. Afterwards you’ll enjoy a robust tasting inside the sensory lab.

Private Events: New Riff offers a variety of event spaces to accommodate groups from 50-200 people. They’re steeped in whiskey motifs, and many offer a behind-the-scenes look into the bustling distillery. The star is the Tower Room, which includes a full bar, a roof deck, and garage doors leading to an outdoor terrace with sweeping views of the Ohio River.

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New Riff Distilling its located at 24 Distillery Way (41073). The West Newport Whiskey Campus is located at 1104 Lowell Street (41073).