Best Of 2019

Best Worth-the-Wait Bottle of Bourbon: New Riff Distilling

If patience is a virtue, there may be none more virtuous than Ken Lewis, former proprietor of The Party Source and current owner of New Riff Distilling. In what some might consider an ill-advised business decision, Lewis launched a brand-new venture knowing that his first name-brand product would take four years to hit the shelves; he opened the New Riff distillery and event space in the parking lot of The Party Source in 2014 but had to wait until 2018 to start seeing a return on investment on his own bourbon. From the get-go, it was decided that New Riff bourbon would be “bottled in bond” — a distinction set by an act passed in 1897 that means a spirit is produced in one distillation season, by one distiller at one distillery and aged for at least four years. “It was a baseline of quality,” Lewis says. Along with that distinction, the high-rye, full-bodied, slightly spicy whiskey is also non-GMO and made with water from the Ohio River Alluvial Aquifer — serendipitously located 100 feet below New Riff’s parking lot. With a four-year build-up, New Riff bourbon’s introduction to the masses came with some fanfare via “The World’s Biggest Bourbon Toast” on the Purple People Bridge in July 2018. To say people were excited might be an understatement: A first round of bottles went on sale at the distillery on Aug. 1 and the entire allocation of 2,100 sold out the first day. Today, New Riff bourbon is available at over 500 distribution points. Or you can head to the distillery — which is the northern-most stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour — to take a tour, sample the spirit and learn about the passion behind this worth-the-wait project. As Lewis says, “Our mission statement is to be one of the great small distilleries of the world.” New Riff Distilling, 24 Distillery Way, Newport, newriffdistilling.com.