Craft spirits distillery startups have many paths to market. Some start from scratch with their own spirits and wait out the four years for their bourbon to hit the four year Bottled-in-Bond mark before they hit the market. Some start with moonshine, vodka or gin to get something in the market asap. While others will acquire bulk spirits from another distillery and finish it off with their own style based on a little extra aging, a unique barrel finish or many other ways.
When New Riff Distilling in Newport, Kentucky got started they did all of the above. What initially built their brand and got product into distribution was their O.K.I. Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Though their distillery is in Kentucky it sits on the Ohio River near the intersection of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana thus the O.K.I. Straight Bourbon Whiskey name. It’s not a secret that the OKI brand was a high rye bourbon distilled and aged at the MGP Distillery across the river in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. That distillery is also referred to by its old owners name the Seagrams Distillery. The name is still blazoned across the red brick buildings in large white letters as you can see from the photo below.
Around the time New Riff was running out of their O.K.I. bourbon their own four year old bourbon and rye whiskies were just getting ready to hit the market. It was all a part of the New Riff plan from day one. When the last of the O.K.I. was bottled and sold that was the end of the brand until now.
Like many brands in the world of whiskey old brands never really die, they just go dark for a while until some other company or startup entrepreneur manages to acquire an old name and brings it back to life.
O.K.I. Straight Bourbon Whiskey to Get New Life
Two Cincinnati, Ohio entrepreneurs, Chad Brizendine and Jake Warm, have acquired the beloved O.K.I. brand from New Riff Distilling and have plans to bring it back to life. O.K.I.’s first single barrel releases are set for bottling at cask strength and release in the Fall of 2020.
O.K.I. will maintain its sourcing strategy of 36 percent high rye bourbon from Lawrenceburg, Indiana for its launch. As part of its acquisition, O.K.I. will update its brand story and packaging, focusing more on the rich bourbon heritage of the entire region dating as far back as pre-Prohibition.
Warm’s family has been integral to local bourbon history for decades. Warm said, “My great grandfather, Jake, built the iconic Seagram’s warehouse at the Lawrenceburg distillery in the 1930’s. At the time, it was the world’s largest whiskey maturing warehouse. I’m very proud that our first O.K.I. barrels will be aged in the same buildings my family built 90 years ago.”
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Brizendine added, “95 percent of the world’s bourbon supply comes from the tri-state region of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, and we’re very proud of that. We look forward to working with distilleries across the region to source bourbon and rye for future O.K.I. releases.”
The first batch of O.K.I. Straight Bourbon Whiskey release will include 5-6 year old single barrels and will be bottled at cask strength in the neighborhood of 116.6 proof (58.3% ABV) with a suggested retail price of $69.99. Distributed will start in Kentucky in the Fall of 2020 with Ohio and Indiana soon thereafter.
Warm was an early investor in George Remus Bourbon which was acquired in 2016 by MGP Ingredients. OKI Spirits LLC will operate from its Cincinnati, Ohio headquarters and specialize in highly curated single barrels of bourbon and rye whiskey.
Details of the transaction between New Riff Distillery and O.K.I. Spirits were not disclosed.
The New O.K.I. Straight Bourbon Whiskey