Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by J. Rieger’s & Co. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.
There’s an exciting movement in the world of whiskey making happening: entrepreneurs are reviving old distilleries shut somewhere between Prohibition and the mid-20th century when Americans temporarily lost interest in the spirit. What’s even more exciting is that the fruits of their labor are coming to our Glencairns now. Though you might think this phenomenon is unique to Kentucky or Tennessee, it’s been occurring in other states, too, a sign of how devastating historical forces were on the now often cult-like spirit.
In 2014, Missouri was able to boast of its own revival experience when J. Rieger’s & Co reopened after almost a century. Originally founded in 1887 and shuttered in 1919, the distillery was known for having a large mail-order operation before Prohibition shut that down (more or less for good, given the current difficulty of shipping spirits). A group that includes a descendant of the original founder, Jacob Rieger, and local bartender and restaurateur Ryan Maybee reopened Kansas City’s first distillery since Prohibition, along with guidance from Dave Pickerell of Maker’s Mark (known for his role in helping craft distilleries) who passed away in 2018. Today, total production clocks in at around 100 barrels a month, including of their flagship Kansas City Whiskey and specialty releases.
The J. Rieger’s & Co. Bottled-in-Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey was distilled in 750-gallon copper pots not long after relaunch. Two releases were made and, though the distillery doesn’t note any differences in composition or flavor profile, they are labeled by the season in which they were distilled in a nod to the Bottled-in-Bond regulations: “Fall 2015” and “Spring 2016” (this sample is the latter). The distillery describes whiskies as possessing higher than typically rye and malted barley contents. The official tasting note suggests they are full of lush fall fruit and spice flavors, including notes of maple, apple pie, cornbread, and dark-roast coffee. I’m glad I tasted the whiskey before exploring the tasting notes, because I, too, found it highly evocative of fall flavors, though in a different way (don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like pumpkin spice).
Both were released on June 2nd, 2022, after their official release party at their distillery-cum-museum. It is extremely limited in availability, so pop on over to the distillery next time you’re in the bigger of the two Kansas Cities.
Tasting Notes: Rieger’s Bottled-in-Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Vital Stats: Aged for six years in new American white oak barrels, 50% ABV, mash bill: 56% corn, 30% rye and 14% malted barley, SRP $59.99/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is golden brown in color.
Nose: At first, this gives off warm notes that remind me of freshly turned autumn leaves and roasted root vegetables. It has a sweetish baking spice aroma like snickerdoodle cookies, light colored caramel or Lyle’s golden syrup, and brewed Lipton tea. There’s a green note like tender pea shoots that adds interest. It’s quite a lovely nose.
Palate: Limp and silky on the palate, this offers up decadent flavors of spun sugar, honey, toasted French bread, Honey Nuts cereal, and sweet tea. It has a lightly toasted sweetness to it that almost reminds me of wheat whiskey. It’s reads as sweet without being cloying because it has a crisp and light feel to the body and gentle tannins on the finish. It’s extremely well composed and goes down very easy. The finish ends rather abruptly, leaving a hint of yeast and toasted pine nuts, but not much else.