Anyone who knows me knows that I love Will Kimble. He’s an incredible soul, a great friend, and an incomparable builder of world-class mandolins. Since 2004, I’ve owned and played several of his mandolins–two-points, A’s, an F, and an octave. As he has done since the beginning, he puts the weight of Kimble Mandolins behind all my various endeavors I have done at the exquisite Grant Street Inn since the very first Mike Compton and David Long workshop and concert 16 years ago next month. Kimble Mandolins and the Grant Street Inn make these events happen and there would be no Richter Mandolin Camp for the Rest of Us since 2011 without them.
What you may not know is that I additionally love bourbon. I grew up in a whiskey family as my dad worked for 4 decades at the Joseph E Seagram distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (now the MGP Distillery, one of the largest distillers of rye whiskey in the US). I love visiting distilleries, learning their history, and more importantly, understanding their “why.” Why make another bourbon when there are already great and hallowed bourbons out there?
New Riff Distilling caught my eye in 2019. Located in the greater Cincinnati area in Newport, Kentucky (which I know well from growing up within the pull of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky), Ken Lewis started the distillery in 2014 with an eye to meeting the highest industry standards, the use of non-GMO grains, and keeping it independently owned by one family. I bought and liked the bourbon, and encouraged others to try at the 2019 Richter Mandolin Camp. My wife and I visited the distillery in October of last year. Beautiful facility, great bourbon and rye, and a tour guide who oozed with conviction for the distillery’s “why.” She explained the origins of the company’s motto of “a new riff on an old tradition.” Ken loves Jimi Hendrix and saw how Hendrix added a new riff to the blues and earlier rock tradition. He was his own voice which instantly was recognizable as coming out of tradition but was fresh and distinct. He wanted to make a bourbon, which like Hendrix, was seeped in tradition while adding something new. For someone who has sought his own voice in blues and rock mandolin, how could I not appreciate their “why?”
I heard this story. It percolated in my brain for a while. I shared with my wife that I would love for them to be a sponsor of the 2020 Richter Mandolin Camp, as I was now incorporating a bourbon tasting on the first night meet and greet. I reached out to New Riff, told them that I felt we were kindred spirits (no pun, intended), that felt that vibe too, and here we are.
I am so proud to announce that New Riff Distilling, Kimble Mandolins, and the Grant Street Inn will be sponsors of the 2020 Richter Mandolin Camp for the Rest of Us featuring Don Julin.