Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
I grew up in the tail-end of mail ordering. I do remember certain magazines having the inserts that you could send away for, but just barely. By far my favorite was the book catalogues we got in grade school. It was definitely a rare treat to be able to carefully pick through the pages, reading the very small blurb about the books available (the internet was around, but we weren’t really using it for this yet, so this was all the information you had), and make a selection. It was even better the day the books arrived.
If we had this option for whiskey and spirits today, I think I’d be even more over the moon.
J. Rieger & Co. built its success largely on a mail order service of their many products, spirits and bitters in addition to various whiskies. The process was started by Alexander Rieger in 1900 when he took over the business from his father, Jacob, who had started the company in 1887. Alexander’s focus was the business side of the distillery, and he found great success – the mail order campaign reached over 250,000 customers, which the company claimed as the most successful mail-order distillery in America.
Prohibition, as it did with any American spirits distillery in that era, was hugely impactful for J. Rieger & Co – but not just in a negative way. J. Rieger & Co. hails from Kansas City – and that’s Kansas City, Missouri, not Kansas. An important distinction in terms of logistics and mailing at any time, but important especially for a distillery in the end of the 19th century. The state of Kansas had started its own prohibition in 1881, making the town just over the border a central hotspot for those seeking a tipple.
Of course, J. Rieger & Co had to stop production in 1920 when Prohibition became a federal mandate. Its return in 2014 was a blend of rich history and fresh voices. The idea came from Ryan Maybee, a local bartender who ran a bar in the Rieger Hotel building (same family and name, though not where the original whiskey was made). He partnered with the last of the family, Andy Rieger, and together they brought in some industry muscle in the form of Dave Pickerell and Tom Nicole to get the brand going again.
Like in the old days, J. Rieger & Co. makes a variety of products, including several whiskies, gin, vodka and liqueur. Our bottle here is a bottled-in-bond bourbon, the second one released by the new J. Rieger & Co. A classically made bourbon, the spirit is a mix of corn, rye, and malted barley distilled in a copper pot still, then aged six years in virgin oak. It has won double gold at the 2023 San Francisco World Spirits Production and gold at the 2023 ASCOT awards.
Can we say O! So good?
We review J. Rieger & Co. Bottled-in-Bond Straight Bourbon, a six year old bourbon out of Kansas City with a 56% corn, 30% rye, 14% malted barley mash bill. (image via J. Rieger & Co.)
Appearance: Dark honey, with medium translucence. Few legs, slow and evenly spaced.
Nose: Strong notes of almond and fresh red cherry, both on the sweeter side. Sweetness continues, taking on a more candied cherry note. Gummy fruit leather at the end. A touch of cinnamon weaves throughout.
Palate: Fruity candy, most reminiscent of Runts, right up front. Some warmth along with it. A light touch of coffee with sweet cream grounds the flavors mid-palate. The finish is fairly quick, and mainly a winding-down of the other flavors.
Whiskey Review: J. Rieger & Co. Bottled-in-Bond Straight Bourbon
I didn’t find this whiskey very complex or terribly unique, but I do think it tastes good. The fruity notes led to some fun flavors without being overly sweet or aggressively one-note. Considering that this is their second bottled-in-bond release since their re-opening nine years ago, I think it’s a tremendous success and a sign of a truly great distillery come back to life.
Talia is part of the Portland service industry community, and an alumna of the Multnomah Whiskey Library. She’s an avid spirit and cocktail enthusiast, and likes to experience them both academically and recreationally. When not sipping whiskey she’s a ceramic artist and lover of travel.