Kansas City’s Electric Park neighborhood has a new whiskey attraction. J. Rieger & Co. Distillery starts public tours and tastings today after debuting on July 12. Within the 60,000-square-foot facility are all the accoutrements for whiskey-making: mash cooker, fermenters, four different stills. And there’s not one, but two bars where guests can enjoy unique and classic cocktails. But the most eye-catching feature has nothing to do with whiskey. No, the first and most conspicuous thing guests will notice upon entering is a 40-foot metal slide meant to carry them, merrily, from the second floor of the distillery to the first.
The slide was the idea of head distiller Nathan Perry, an homage to the distillery’s location near the site of the former Electric Park, one of the world’s first electric-powered amusement parks, which opened in Kansas City in 1899. Complete with theatrics, thrill rides, and notorious fair food, the attraction brought in millions of visitors, including a 9-year-old Walt Disney, who later credited Electric Park as the inspiration for Disney World.
However, while the super-slide may attract the most attention, co-founder and vice president of sales and hospitality Ryan Maybee says “the heart and soul” of the distillery is the Pickerell Production Floor. The massive, glass-enclosed section that houses the stills is named after J. Rieger’s late master distiller, Dave Pickerell, who died last November. “Even though we’ve added this incredible new guest experience, we will always be, first and foremost, a spirits brand,” says Maybee. “Designing our new production floor was one of the last projects Dave Pickerell worked on.”
In addition, a 3,500-square-foot historical exhibit will transport guests back to 1887, when Jacob Rieger began producing more than 100 different alcoholic beverages to sell around the world. Today, his great-great-great-grandson, Andy Rieger, wants to share the untold story of the Electric Park neighborhood and his family’s spirits business with visitors.
And the new distillery experience will not only educate guests on Kansas City history, it will also offer educational and hands-on seminars on topics like making cocktails and distilling your own gin. Spirits experts from outside the company, including former Tanqueray gin master distiller Tom Nichol and wine expert Steve Olson will lead many of these classes.
Chief among the distillery’s other attractions are the two cocktail bars, one on each floor. Upstairs, the Monogram Lounge is open all day, serving everything from breakfast food to cocktails. Downstairs, modern-day speakeasy The Hey! Hey! Club serves up small bites and cocktails in the dark—well, dimness—including J. Rieger’s classic, The Horsefeather, a combination of its Kansas City whiskey, lemon, Angostura bitters, and ginger beer. Beverage director Andrew Olsen and food director Marita Swift helm the two venues.
Founded in 1887, J. Rieger previously operated out of a smaller space, adjacent to the new distillery, that will now be used as a barrel warehouse. Information about tours, tastings, and the rest of the visitor experience can be found on the distillery’s website.