New Riff Distilling announced head distiller Brian Sprance has been named master distiller, the first designation in the distillery’s history. Sprance has been with the company since its inception in 2014.

Ahead of the distillery’s founding in 2014, Sprance was recruited as head distiller by New Riff founder, co-owner and chief executive officer Ken Lewis, who, rather than hiring a distiller, understood that fermentation is where a spirit’s flavors are created; distillation only concentrates them. To Lewis, Sprance’s extensive expertise in fermentation as a former brewer for the Boston Beer Company in Cincinnati spoke for itself.

“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. “The person at New Riff leading that charge to make world-class whiskey to share with the world is our head distiller, Brian Sprance. So it’s fitting, as we approach our tenth anniversary, it’s fitting that we recognize Brian for his leadership role in moving us toward that aspirational goal and for sharing with us all such outstanding whiskey by conferring on him the well-earned title of master distiller.”

Upon joining New Riff, Sprance was mentored by consulting master distiller and “godfather of rye whiskey,” Larry Ebersold, an unrivaled authority in the world of distillation and American whiskey. Together with New Riff co-founder Jay Erisman, they launched the distillery and laid the foundation for the flavor profiles of its spirits and aging 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 answered 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.”

While this transition serves as a unanimous nod to his exceptional contribution to the company’s quest to become one of the greatest small distilleries in the world and a testament to a decade’s worth of profound work mastering his craft, Brian’s primary focus as master distiller will remain in making world-class whiskey.

The master distiller announcement kicks off an eventful year for New Riff, including expansion into new states, tenth-anniversary celebrations and the release of older whiskey.

“2024 will be a transformational year for New Riff,” Lewis said. “The team has put in a lot of work behind the scenes, and I’m excited to share those efforts with our customers.”

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