J. Rieger’s Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey returns the tastebuds to a Pre-Prohibition palate
The crew at J. Rieger & Co. certainly knows how to throw a party.
Spirits were high on June 1st at the distillery, as investors and members of the media gathered on the patio for a highly anticipated release. We were one day away from the brand’s first bourbon release since pre-Prohibition—and you better believe that the promise of “try a new booze” is like a siren song for us here at The Pitch. Over live music, hors d’oeuvres and flowing cocktails, the party picked up steam as we waited to hear from founders Andy Rieger and Ryan Maybee about the new release.
If you haven’t spent much time at J. Rieger & Co. near the River Market, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s a huge and fascinating space—a museum, full of artifacts from the distillery’s pre-Prohibition days, is a great place to wander and take in a little history. There are daily tours that allow you to learn the processes that go into making all these tasty spirits. There are also a number of different areas to partake in food and drink: the carnival-inspired Electric Park Garden Bar outdoor space, the underground, the intimate Hey! Hey! Club, the traditional Tasting Room and the lively Monogram Lounge.
We gathered on the patio, overlooking the Garden Bar, as we sipped the new spirit.
Rieger’s Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey is special for a few reasons. First, as you’d expect, it’s very tasty. It’s a higher proof than many bourbons you may be used to–100 proof, or 50% ABV–and you can definitely tell in the nose. Bourbon’s always got a nice burn to it, but this one will singe those nostrils if you aren’t careful. Head Distiller Nathan Perry and his team have done good work though—it’s a remarkably balanced sipper. The heat lingers, but it doesn’t taste nearly as scorching as it smells. There’s a complexity to it, with a lot of tart and sweet flavors mingling at the beginning, making way for a rich, savory combination as it finishes.
If you like a good sipping whiskey on a relaxing evening, or you’re looking for a bottle to pass back and forth between friends as you share stories you’ve told a hundred times before, this might be the bottle for you.
This release is also special for a few less-tangible reasons. For one, whiskey has got to age. Back in 2015, when the distillery first reopened their doors, they began setting aside a few barrels per month, knowing they’d have to be in it for the long haul for this bourbon to ever see the light of day. That day is now: this release is the result of that small batch being set aside—it has aged for over six years, and now it’s being unleashed upon Kansas City.
The “Bottled in Bond” aspect is also an interesting one. This designation accounts for the 100-proof bottle, as that exact proof is required to obtain the Bottled in Bond certification. It also means that the spirit is made by a single distiller in a single season, and it must be aged for at least four years in a bonded warehouse.
It’s not an easy classification to acquire—it takes patience, time and money, which are often in short supply when a new distillery opens its doors. However, when done right, the results are well worth the wait, as Rieger and Maybee expressed, alongside Perry.
“This has been a goal of ours since we first began planning to reopen the distillery,” Andy Rieger told the gathered crowd. “Now it’s finally here.”
He discussed how important this spirit was to the team at J. Rieger & Co., and stressed how it was truly an expression of personality and creativity for the distillery. Nathan Perry talked about the process and work that went into bringing this bourbon to life, and even teared up a bit in talking about his mentor, Dave Pickerell, who helped relaunch J. Rieger & Co. in 2014. Pickerell passed away in 2018, and Perry raised a glass in his memory.
The evening carried on with more music, more laughter, more food and lots more whiskey. Their new bourbon worked just as well as a cocktail base as it did on its own. The evening’s featured cocktails included two classics, a Boulevardier and a Whiskey Smash, alongside a drink called the June Bug—bourbon, peach, Sicilian Amaro and soda. All three were appropriately tasty; for my money, the flavor profile of the bourbon worked best with the Boulevardier, but that might also be the case because I’m also a sucker for any cocktail that adds up to “we added more alcohol to your whiskey, plus a bit of fruit.”
As the evening wound down, we found one last surprise in the corner of the Tasting Room: a Torcedor–forgive me if I’m misusing the term, as the world of tobacco is not my wheelhouse–sat at a small table, hand-rolling cigars for guests to take home and enjoy to cap off the evening of bourbon and revelry. Just another craftsman, taking his time to create something slightly sinful and definitely enjoyable. If you’re going to indulge, do it right—as Ryan Maybee told the gathered crowd at the end of his toast: “Let’s drink.”
Rieger’s Bottled in Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a limited release, so it might be tough to find. Your best bet is The J. Rieger & Co. Distillery, located at 2700 Guinotte Ave. Kansas City, MO 64120. They’re open Monday and Tuesday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Wednesday and Thursday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-midnight, and Sunday 11 a.m.-8 p.m.