Kansas City mixologist Ryan Maybee and entrepreneur Andy Rieger began booking tours of the J. Rieger & Co. distillery in the East Bottoms as soon as they got their new copper-pot still, named “Sherry,” assembled the first week of December.
“We put this thing together ourselves,” Maybee says, while giving a tour of the space earlier this week,“and we have a second 120-gallon still for our gin production that should be arriving soon.”
“Sherry” is a 750-gallon large shiny copper pot still made by Vendome in Louisville, Kentucky. "She” was purchased to produce straight bourbon and rye whiskey for J. Rieger & Co. But don’t expect to see or taste any liquor from this still until 2020 -- that's how long it will take to produce and properly age the company's straight bourbon and rye.
In the mean time, Maybee and Rieger will continue to produce their blended whiskey. On shelves in Kansas City right now, J. Rieger & Co. Kansas City Whiskey is made with a combination of barrel-aged malt, corn and rye whiskey, purchased from other distilleries in the U.S., and a 15-year-old Oloroso sherry called Solena Especial, which is produced in Spain. It's a delicious sherry on its own. But as Maybee realized, when blended with whiskey, it creates a distinct style that honors the way whiskey was made during Jacob Rieger’s days. The father of J. Rieger & Co., which was founded in 1887, Jacob Rieger was the great-great-great grandfather of Andy Rieger.
And that's not all. With the second, smaller still, J. Rieger Co. anticipates its gin will hit the shelves some time in 2015, Maybee says.
Tours at the J. Rieger & Co. distillery can be booked through its website and have been steadily selling out, as many Kansas City whiskey fans are anxious to get a look at the inside 2700 Guinotte Avenue, where J. Rieger & Co. does its distilling.
The building is owned by Boulevard Brewing Co. founder John McDonald. McDonald also owns the red brick building next door to the distillery, which was once the old Heim Brewing Co. bottling facility. McDonald plans to eventually turn it into an indoor food hall, similar to the Eataly concept that was started in New York City by celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Lidia Bastianich and her son, Joe Bastianich.
Tours of the distillery either last two hours, at $20 per person, or three hours, at $25 per person. Both include lunch at Pigwich, the food truck located next to the Local Pig Butcher shop which is directly across the street, and a treat from home goods store next door, Urban Provisions.
Bonus: If you're willing to stick around and stuff corks in bottles of whiskey and label them by hand after your tour, there is a t-shirt in it for you.
“We are doing everything by hand,” says Maybee, “and we need all the hands we can get to keep up with demand.”
J. Rieger & Co.
2700 Guinotte Avenue
Kansas City, MO 64120