New Riff Distilling - Announces $2 Million Expansion to Increase Bourbon Production

New Riff Distilling in Newport, Kentucky opened in 2014 and celebrated the release of its first bottled-in-bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey release with 2,200 of its closest friends in August 2018. The celebration took place on the Purple People Bridge, a bike and pedestrian bridge that spans the Ohio River connecting Kentucky and Ohio. Since then, they’ve continued to mash, ferment, distill, barrel, age and bottle their sour mash bourbon and rye whiskies. Now the company has announced plans to continue to build bridges by producing more of its award winning spirits.

New Riff Distilling to Double Capacity

The distillery has announced plans to invest $2 million that will increase production by 50%. The distillery will add 900 square feet to its current location, allowing the installation of three additional open top fermenters.

“We remain committed to becoming one of the great small distilleries of the world,” said New Riff Distilling Co-founder Ken Lewis. “This expansion will help us achieve that goal while remaining a family-owned business with no outside ownership.”

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The project resolves a current production bottleneck which will add two more days of production moving from the current four day schedule to six days a week.

When you visit New Riff Distilling the first thing you see is their 60′ tall, 24″ diameter Vendome Copper & Brass Works copper column still. When you pull into the parking lot the still stands out like a rocket ship surrounded by glass. The addition of the three new fermenters will allow for more production capacity that will flow through to this still.  

Distillery Trail reached out to New Riff Co-founder Jay Erisman to learn more about their expansion plans.

“Our present 24″ diameter beer still and 375-gallon doubler can absolutely handle the increased capacity,” said Co-founder Jay Erisman. “It’s important to note, we are not changing the rate of distillation, we are only adding more days of distillation on the same daily production schedule of three mashes/distillations. In fact we cannot change the rate, because a still of given diameter can only handle a given flow rate of beer through the still (about 16-17 gpm for our still). An increase in rate would also have implications for water consumption and the GPM we attain from our wonderful aquifer water supply. We love our delicious aquifer well and would not wish to grow so large that we outstrip its supply.”

We asked Erisman if they would be adding more fermenters in the future. He said, “Being hemmed in by a flood wall and a parking lot, we really can’t add any more fermenters after these three new ones; we are squeezing these in as it is! However, if we somehow could magically add even more fermenters, we could then add a fourth, overnight shift for 24 hour production. We don’t want to do that as it’s hard on our staff.”

And finally, we asked if there were plans to eventually move to a seven day schedule. “With these additional fermenters, if we cut the time of our Bourbon fermentation from four days to three we could get up to a seven-day-per-week schedule. But we like our Bourbon just fine at a four-day fermentation cycle. And it’s nice for the staff to have a regular day off.”

Going from 8,000 to 12,000 Barrels Per Year

It is estimated the change will allow the distillery to produce 12,000 barrels per year, up from 8,000 with the existing setup. Pending permits, construction is expected to begin in mid-May with the new fermenters online by December. The expansion will necessitate hiring up to five new employees with competitive salaries and benefits.

Lewis said the goal of the expansion is to, in time, have more older product and more proven specialty products available. Because of the increased production, the distillery will also be looking to build additional rickhouses soon as well.

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