How Rabbit Hole Distillery Is Redefining American Whiskey Through Passion and Ingenuity

Commitment and innovation are two words that immediately spring to mind when it comes to Louisville, Ky.’s Rabbit Hole Distillery. With a relentless commitment to crafting original expressions of whiskey, founder Kaveh Zamanian’s determination to challenge the status quo and offer a new vision of what authentic premium American whiskey can be has yielded a company with over a decade under its belt — with no signs of slowing down.

From a steadfast commitment to reducing its carbon footprint to partnering with well-respected cooperages and small-batch grain suppliers, Rabbit Hole honors the past while putting its own unique spin on things. From its four-grain, high-rye, and sherry cask-finished bourbon to its Bespoke Gin (finished in Kentucky rye barrels) and Liddel Vodka (which is filtered through Kentucky limestone), this distillery has built a reputation for a focus on quality and innovation that truly sets it apart.

Yes, Rabbit Hole is breaking proverbial molds left and right, but with a deep respect for Kentucky’s storied whiskey-making traditions and culture.

Individuality and Excellence With No Shortcuts

Rabbit Hole works with one-of-a-kind recipes using mash bills (a mix of grains used to create whiskey) that have garnered a groundswell in the industry, inspiring bourbon drinkers to learn more about America’s native spirit. “Bourbon is meant to be enjoyed, with no exclusivity as to how. Let it serve as a reminder to be unapologetically yourself,” Zamanian says. “Meant to be served and sipped on however you’d like without outside opinion. Don’t let anyone tell you how to have your bourbon.”

Kaveh was drawn to bourbon by the creative possibilities within its defined parameters. His mantra, “Bourbon is 51 percent corn and 49 percent possibility,” emphasizes the opportunity for innovation in the remaining 49 percent of the mash bill, blending strict bourbon standards with imaginative flavor exploration.

Rabbit Hole’s bourbons are comprised of 30 percent malted grains, which bring out unique and complex flavors, from butterscotch and citrus to black tea and brown sugar. The distillery takes extra care to malt all the secondary grains to maximize their depth, yielding flavor profiles of distinction. 

The spirits are coaxed from high-caliber raw components and then carefully aged under their collective team’s watchful eyes. Never chill-filtered (a commonly used process that causes significant loss of flavor), Rabbit Hole’s approach certainly sets it apart from many big bourbon brands. This method brings out the robust, earthy, rich, creamy, umami flavors that passionate bourbon lovers enjoy. 

Additionally, its whiskeys are 110 proof at barrel entry, which imparts a rich mouthfeel and more robust flavors. This technique means a lower yield, but Rabbit Hole is more concerned with creating memorable flavor profiles than having a high yield. 

Rabbit Hole’s partners at Kelvin Cooperage craft some of the finest barrels in the business, taking the time to carefully produce sturdy American oak vessels that hold and season Rabbit Hole’s signature whiskeys. All bourbon is required to be aged in new, charred American oak barrels. In addition to charring, they slowly hand toast their barrels over natural wood-fired flames — think about toasting a marshmallow. A meticulous approach that takes upwards of 20 minutes per barrel, it releases caramelized sugars from deep within the oak’s fibers. The result? Nuanced flavors amalgamate with the unique distillate during the aging process, unparalleled flavor, and complexity.

This takes time, but it’s an integral part of crafting premium spirits that absorb the elegant subtleties imparted by the charred and toasted wooden slats. Once the bourbon reaches maturity, it’s carefully harvested in small batches of no more than 15 barrels to create Rabbit Hole’s premium whiskey. Since there is no legal definition of how many barrels constitute a “small batch,” Rabbit Hole is purposeful in defining its approach as an “extreme small batch.” This graceful alchemy of distillate and wood merges to create something great — together.

The diverse range of grain makeups, culinary approach, barrel toasting and charring, aging methods, and approach to distillation, are all guided by Rabbit Hole’s principles: No shortcuts, no compromise, nothing left to chance. This philosophy contributes to a line of products that are redefining the standard of American whiskey, bringing a fresh and truly innovative approach to whiskey making.

Whether you’re one to sip your spirits neat, on the rocks, or in a craft cocktail, Rabbit Hole’s Cavehill, Heigold, or Dareringer Bourbons and Boxergrail Rye Whiskey are created with the utmost care and dedication to excellence. They also produce a Founder’s Collection limited-edition series of elegantly packaged bottles — excellent gifts for even the most discerning whiskey lover on your list.

A Grain-to-Glass Legacy

Building a legacy is tantamount to Zamanian, his family, and Rabbit Hole’s ethos, and sustainability is a huge part of that endeavor. From where the grain is sourced to the facilities and what happens to the waste (it goes to local cattle farmers to provide a protein-rich diet at no cost to the farmers), Rabbit Hole cares.

Once grain arrives, the state-of-the-art distillery takes advantage of gravity, eliminating the need for pumps and electricity during this process. The building’s interior features an inverted butterfly design, which collects and recirculates the air, and the metal used in the atrium was locally sourced. The stunning exterior was created using locally sourced wood, which screens and minimizes radiant heat, and the cooker and copper still generate enough heat to warm the entire building, eliminating the need for a heating system.

Recently, Rabbit Hole Distillery was awarded the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR® certification. This places Rabbit Hole among the first-ever distilleries (one of only eight) to receive the certification, placing it in the top 25 percent of U.S. facilities for energy efficiency and performance.

The structure itself is an expression of Rabbit Hole’s commitment to full transparency. From sourcing exceptional ingredients and supplies to production methods, it’s all in plain view for guests to see. Rabbit Hole’s signature style is what makes it exceptional.

Bringing People Together

Since 2012, Zamanian has dedicated his life to honoring bourbon’s traditions while expanding its horizons through creativity. Rabbit Hole is a collective working toward one goal: making great whiskey. In 2022, Kaveh was inducted to the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame’s 20th anniversary class, cementing his place among industry pioneers and visionaries.

In addition to savoring these spirits at home, you can book a tour of the Louisville facility; it’s truly an homage to the art and science of whiskey making. Heralded as “the architectural icon of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail,” it also houses an extensive art collection and a luxury event space.

Louisville’s vibrant community and collaborative energy are part of the terroir of Rabbit Hole’s line of spirits. Responsible, passionate, efficient, and mindful of the environmental impact — the legacy is in barrels of spirits that are yet to come of age, waiting to be fully realized. Rabbit Hole invites you to partake in the journey, one sip at a time. 

This article is sponsored by Rabbit Hole.