Five Questions with the founder of Rabbit Hole Distillery

(Source: WAVE 3 News)
(Source: WAVE 3 News)
Updated: Aug. 17, 2018 at 12:16 AM EDT
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Kaveh Zamanian (Source: Provided photo)
Kaveh Zamanian (Source: Provided photo)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Kaveh Zamanian said when he was thinking and dreaming about building a distillery and starting a brand, his wife would tell him "you're taking the family down the rabbit hole."

So when his dream became a reality, Zamanian easily came up with the name -- Rabbit Hole.

Tours are now available at the new Rabbit Hole Distillery in NuLu. The $15 million, 55,000-square-foot facility showcases the bourbon-making process from grain to glass. It's located between East Market and Jefferson Street.

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Zamanian believes we are just in the beginning of an "American Whiskey renaissance," and believes that more consumers will continue to fall in love with the spirit.

Here are my five questions with Kaveh Zamanian, founder of Rabbit Hole Distillery.

1. Kaveh, tell me about your background. How did you get into making bourbon?

I'm a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst by training (PhD in Clinical Psychology and Certified Psychoanalyst) but have been a wine and spirit enthusiast most of my life. I worked in the hospitality business all through high school, college and graduate school years and feel at home in the bar and restaurant business. My wife Heather, a native of Louisville, introduced me to bourbon. As a scotch drinker, I was taken back by the history and tradition of bourbon and immersed myself in everything bourbon. For more than three years I read everything I could get my hands on and started taking courses around the country and met with various experts in the industry. The more I learned, the more I became frustrated about the limited range of bourbon offerings and disappointed that most bourbon and rye whiskies in the market came from a few distilleries. I decided that it's time for a brand that is not sourced and offers unique and distinct expressions of bourbon and American whiskey. So, I decided to jump in.

2. How did you come up with the name Rabbit Hole?

During the period that I was ruminating and dreaming about building a distillery and starting a brand, on occasion, my wife would say that I'm taking the family down the rabbit hole. On one of those occasions I said, "What a great name, it captures everything that I'm trying to do, it's going to the unknown." It is anxiety-promoting making an incredible investment, laying down unique bourbon recipes not knowing how will it end up, but it is ultimately an adventure that is transformative. No matter where we end up, it's going to be an amazing ride.

3. How would you describe the difference in the way Rabbit Hole tastes?

We have four different recipes of Kentucky Straight Bourbon, one Kentucky Straight Rye plus a number of finished products, London Dry Gin finished in rye whiskey and bourbon finished in sherry and port casks. Each product is unique in its own right. However, a couple of features that set Rabbit Hole apart are that we use a lot of malted grains in our recipes. Malted grains are more expensive, but yield more flavor. We also use handmade barrels that are not only charred but also toasted. The toasted barrels require more time and effort to bring to perfection, but again, ultimately bring out the best flavors of the wood to give our spirits exceptional and unique characters. All are absolutely amazing expressions of bourbon and rye whiskies and offer range of flavor profiles for all pallets. You have to taste and pick your favorite.

4. The tours just started. Do you feel this is important to increase your bourbon's popularity?

Our distillery is truly one of a kind -- it is an architectural and engineering marvel. A modern cathedral paying respect to the art and science of distillation. It is the only distillery in Kentucky and the U.S. that offers a completely immersive experience. Our manufacturing atrium where cooking, fermentation and distillation happens is connected to our tasting and event center. As a guest you will have a fully immersive experience. More importantly, our facility is an embodiment of our philosophy of transparency. Historically, there's a lot of smoke and mirrors in the industry, so we built a distillery that gives our guests a view to every aspect of our operation. From grain to glass, everything is proudly in full view. We believe that Rabbit Hole is a bridge between tradition and modern, old and new, and will certainly be a player in adding to bourbon's popularity and mystique.

5. What will guests see on your tour?

On our tour, our guests start with a taste of our products and get a look at every step of the process of making bourbon and rye whiskey. Our building is designed around the process of making whiskey in a way that allows an immersive experience. Not only every step of the process is in proud view, our guests will literally be lifted off the manufacturing floor to get multiple perspectives of the process of making whiskey. They will ultimately settle in our tasting room, the Overlook, where not only they will be able have a grand view of Nulu and Louisville, they will enjoy a taste of all our products at a leisurely pace and have an opportunity to taste spectacular cocktails developed and curated by the famed mixology team of Death and Co. from New York.

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