Hannah Lowen Explains What Sets New Riff Distilling Apart

The Vice President of operations at also reflects on the local bourbon brand’s origins. 

New Riff is a family and independently owned and operated bourbon distillery with a prime location on the acclaimed Kentucky Bourbon Trail. It opened in 2014 and released its first aged products in 2018, focusing on bourbon and rye whiskeys using “bottle in bond” and “without chill filtration” methods. We spoke to Hannah Lowen, the Vice President of operations at New Riff Distilling, about the popular bourbon brand’s origins.

Photograph courtesy of New Riff Distilling

New Riff is a bit of a “new kid on the block” in the Kentucky bourbon scene, and your origin story sounds a bit like Danny Ocean assembling his dream team.

Ken Lewis, who founded the company, was the former owner of The Party Source and had been in liquor retailing for 30-plus years. He drafted a small team of self-described “corporate refugees” to help launch the distillery. Our staff has grown from eight to 45, and our production has grown nearly fivefold.

You started your career in politics and nonprofit management. What compelled you to make the switch?

Serendipity. I was between jobs when Ken called. I knew Ken and his family from growing up in Louisville, and when he reached out, I jumped at the chance. Back then, I didn’t have a role, title, or even specific duties—I was just a person to come in and help get [New Riff] off the ground.

Aside from its age, what sets New Riff apart?

Using a mix of new and old techniques is what sets New Riff, a nod to a musical riff, apart. The idea [is that] musicians put their own spin on an old song. That’s how we feel about bourbon and our place in the industry. We’re not attempting to rewrite the song; the song is really really good. We love the song. We are simply adding a new riff.

What’s your go-to drink?

That’s an easy question! New Riff of course! [Our] high-rye bourbon is perfect in a spicy and bold well-mixed Manhattan.

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