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New Riff names first master distiller

Brian Sprance, who has served as head distiller for New Riff since it was founded in 2014, has been promoted to master distiller.

Sprance has been with New Riff Distilling since its inception in 2014

The founder of the Newport, Kentucky-based brand, Ken Lewis, said he hired Sprance based on his fermentation expertise as a former brewer for the Boston Beer Company in Cincinnati.

“When I founded New Riff in 2014, my goal was – and still is – for our Northern Kentucky distillery to become one of the great small distilleries of the world,” Lewis said, crediting Stance for leading the whiskey-making charge. “So it’s fitting as we approach our 10th anniversary that we recognize Brian for his leadership role in moving us forward toward that aspirational goal and for sharing with us all such outstanding whiskey by conferring on him the well-earned title of master distiller.”

New Riff is among a new class of Kentucky distiller, lending an inventive approach to American whiskey without representing one of the state’s larger whiskey-making hubs. New Riff is a part of the B-Line, a self-guided Bourbon tour of Northern Kentucky.

At New Riff, Sprance was mentored by Larry Ebersold and, together with co-founder Jay Erisman, launched the distillery and developed its flavour profiles and ageing regimen.

“Larry Ebersold was instrumental in my training as a distiller and I consider myself extremely lucky to count him as a mentor,” Sprance said. “Larry was an excellent teacher who rarely gave the answer but, instead, motivated me to reach a full understanding of each situation that presented itself in the whiskey-making process. While I consider Larry one of my biggest influences in whiskey today, I’m even luckier to consider him a trusted and valued friend.”

As master distiller, Sprance will continue to focus on making whiskey at New Riff, with Lewis calling 2024 a transformational year for the brand. “The team has put in a lot of work behind the scenes and I’m excited to share those efforts with our customers,” he said.

Lewis will retire this year and be replaced by Hannah Lowen.

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