Rabbit Hole Distillery is Louisville’s newest distillery. The ribbon cutting ceremony on the first day of May, Derby Week for us Louisvillians, seems very appropriate. It is the time of the year when people take pleasure in Bourbon, horses and life in general. It is also the time of the year when people take risks on the horses and sometimes they pay off big and other times not so well. I am betting that this is one that will pay off big for the founder, Kaveh Zamanian. Zamanian is not from a historic Bourbon distilling family but his enthusiasm for the spirit will more than convince any doubters who meet him. He is not native to Kentucky and tells how his wife, Heather, who is a Kentuckian introduced him to Bourbon and he has loved it ever since that time. So much so that he moved to Kentucky and entered the Bourbon business. He started by getting some whiskey contract-distilled to create the brand – Rabbit Hole. That is the first point in his favor in my opinion. He did not want to just sell a brand, he wanted it to be his brand and his recipe.
Kaveh Zamanian did not train as a distiller. He is trained as a clinical psychologist who had a dream to be part of the new revival of Bourbon. He has hired some very talented people to help make that dream come true. His marketing person is a chef from Canada with a great appreciation for whiskey. His production manager, Cameron Talley, came from Wild Turkey and Jimmy Russell describes him as a real talent. His architect, Douglas Pierson, helped design a building inspired by Kaveh’s favorite modern architect, Ludwig Meis van der Rohe.
After creating the brand he worked to build a distillery to make his whiskey. And what a beautiful distillery it is! It combines a modern building to house the distillery with a turn of the 20th century building that houses the gift shop. A marriage of the old and new that shows respect for tradition while not being afraid of being innovative and new. The distillery is well laid out allowing visitors to see every step of the process. It includes some very nice event spaces that showcase the views of the neighborhood. There are plans for a bar and a restaurant to be located at the site. It will appeal to tourists and locals alike.
The copper Vendome stills are still bright and shiny and the mash tubs are empty but that will change over the summer as production begins and Bourbon barrels are filled. The tour will allow people to experience the process up close and personal. There are places where glass windows allow people to view what is going on at certain steps of the process, but there are many places where you are in the room and feeling the experience of distilling – taste the mash or watch the tailbox as the new make comes off the stills.
The whiskeys they are selling now are still quite young but of good quality. They have a Bourbon that is 70% corn, 10% malted wheat, 10% malted honey barley and 10% malted barley. Their Rye is 95% rye and 5% malted barley. They have a sherry cask finished whiskey that is 68% corn, 18% wheat and 14% malted barley. They are all good sound whiskeys now and will be even better when they get a little more time in the barrel. They all show some innovation in the mash bills that still stay within the rules of their styles and yet offer some unique flavors.
Rabbit Hole Distillery is going to be an interesting place to watch. They have a good balance of tradition and innovation in their whiskeys. They have a very tourism-friendly distillery that will also cater to the local community with a restaurant and bar. They should do well and may change the way others do things, as well. I suspect that we will see more distilleries with food and drink offerings in the future.
Photos Courtesy of Rabbit Hole Distilling, used with permission