New Riff unveils first floor renovations as part of $3 million overhaul

Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton Hornbeck
Kenton is a reporter for LINK nky. Email him at [email protected]

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New Riff Distilling has revamped its distillery experience to better complement its brand’s growing reputation, said Sales Director Mollie Lewis.

“It’s hard to even envision what it looked like before,” Lewis told LINK nky. “This is definitely an upgrade. I think we’re utilizing the space better. It feels nice and light and airy.”

Spirits entrepreneur Ken Lewis founded New Riff in 2014, and he said it has grown to become a recognizable brand within the bourbon industry and one closely associated with Northern Kentucky.

As New Riff expanded as a business, so has their need for upgraded facilities. In March, New Riff began a $3 million renovation project that would completely transform their first and third floors. On Thursday, New Riff gave LINK nky a sneak peek of their newly renovated first-floor space.

The distillery building, built in 2014, has undergone few physical renovations in those nine years. As the distillery grew more popular as a tourist attraction, the first-floor space would often get overcrowded, Chief Operating Officer Hannah Lowen said.

“This has been a very chaotic space in many ways,” Lowen said. “As our reputation has grown, there’s more tourists in the area coming to Northern Kentucky. On a Saturday, if you were in here and you’re trying to buy a bottle or get a drink or go on a tour, it was really crowded. We knew we needed to update what we were doing.”

Before the renovation, New Riff’s first floor featured a gift shop and a small bar. Toward the back was office space. The renovation overhauled the entire first floor. The gift shop is larger and features exclusive offerings such as bottles, shirts, hats, ornaments and more.

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New Riff’s outdoor patio is now home to the pop-up Riff Raff Bar. Since the third floor is amid renovations, Lowen said the New Riff staff wanted an accessible space to engage with customers and tourists throughout the summer.

Upon entering the distillery, patrons will notice an upgraded tasting bar with a lazy susan. New Riff’s motto, “Respectfully Different” is posted to the wall.

“People want to come in and find something new every time and it’s given us a lot more space to do that,” Lowen said.

In the fall, New Riff will debut its customization bar, which is being configured in what was formerly first-floor office spaces.

The Aquifer, a tasting bar previously nestled on the first floor, has been moved to the third floor. The bar’s namesake comes from an underground aquifer directly underneath the distillery grounds. New Riff pulls water from that aquifer to distill their spirits.

Construction on the third floor is ongoing. Once completed, The Aquifer with views of the Cincinnati skyline from the rooftop patio. A private room can be reserved for community gatherings.

Previously, the 10,000 square feet third floor was used as private event space. Lowen said New Riff realized the potential of the space during the pandemic when it was used to host happy hours that were properly socially distanced.

“What we started to hear from customers was ‘I’ve never been up here’ because they had never been invited to a private event,” Lowen said. “We started throwing happy hours on the weekends. We started hosting these happy hours and just the feedback, it was like intense and immediate of people almost demanding that we have this public space.”

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While open to the public this week, New Riff is hosting a grand opening next Saturday, July 29, to officially unveil the space. Third-floor renovations are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

“It really turned out beautifully,” Lewis said. “You know, it’s one thing to see everything on paper or digitally. It’s another thing to see it actually in the flesh.”

New Riff selected Schumacher Dugan as the general contractor, and worked with Platte Architecture + Design, Luminaut, HAWA Inc, KLH Engineers, Goodfire Design and Durham Studios on the design.

Regular hours will be 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tours, tastings and experiences can be booked by visiting

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