On Thursday, Oct. 6, NuLu will take a trip down the rabbit hole with an official groundbreaking ceremony of a new distillery. Rabbit Hole Distilling will become the seventh distillery to open in downtown Louisville if construction goes as planned and they hit the target of late 2017.
Along with the soon-to-open Louisville Distilling Co. (Angel’s Envy) and Old Forester, slated to open later next year, Rabbit Hole joins Copper & Kings, the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse, Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and Kentucky Peerless Distillery. (Michter’s also has plans for a downtown distillery, but the project has been temporarily delayed.)
Seven distilleries all within a few miles of each other certainly puts Louisville on the map as a destination city when it comes to bourbon tourism, and that’s something the city (Urban Bourbon Trail) and the mayor (“bourbonism”) have been touting hard the last couple of years. In fact, Mayor Greg Fischer will preside over Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremonies at Rabbit Hole.
Insider caught up with Rabbit Hole founder Kaveh Zamanian and creative director Michael Motamedi a couple days before the ceremony to gauge their level of anticipation. We’re happy to report their excitement is through the roof, and they’re more than prepared to get their name and products out to the public.
While we talked, master distiller Cameron Talley was busy hand-numbering labels for one of their first products, a rye whiskey. He was on No. 1,014 out of 3,000.
Zamanian says the mayor and the city have been incredibly supportive of Rabbit Hole, and he hopes it continues. After all, it’s in the best interest for Kentucky and Louisville to get behind the industry.
“Right now Kentucky is producing 95 percent of the bourbon in the world, and hopefully we can maintain that,” he says. “Keep the association between Kentucky and bourbon going strong.”
Zamanian and his team have had their plate full with both beginning construction on a $12.5 million, state-of-the-art distillery and launching new products, which you’ll see around town as early as mid October. These include a four-grain bourbon, a rye whiskey and a bourbon finished in sherry casks. Other products down the line include a wheated bourbon, a gin finished in rye whiskey barrels, and possibly even a tequila that’s been finished in bourbon barrels.
“Anything we do will more than likely have a some kind of a Kentucky twist on it,” explains Zamanian. “One of the things that will become synonymous with our brand is innovation. We want to put out products, but more importantly, I want consumers to associate Rabbit Hole with what it really represents, which is adventure, being whimsical, playful, not necessarily taking ourselves too seriously, and being able to go down the rabbit hole and enjoy the process.”
He says that while his team spent many months looking for the perfect spot for the distillery, they kept coming back to NuLu. The culinary-centric, growing neighborhood seems like the perfect fit for a company committed to experimentation.
“We believed Rabbit Hole was a better fit for an urban distillery rather than a rural setting,” says Zamanian. “NuLu in particular is just really consistent with the vibe we’re trying to create and the buzz we’re trying to create. Rabbit Hole is positioned as a brand that’s opening up new demographics, new whiskey drinkers — younger, hip, new to the whiskey scene.”
Motamedi agrees that NuLu is the ideal spot for Rabbit Hole, and their alignment with all the other distilleries in town is more than ideal.
“We don’t look at it as competition,” he says. “We like being in the mix of everything. I think this area specifically, with the amazing restaurants and scene over here, is the perfect spot. You see the growth. It’s very exciting to be a part of that growth.”
The distillery will connect East Jefferson Street with East Market Street and include a full distillery, event space, retail shop, tasting room and possibly even a restaurant that’ll incorporate Rabbit Hole products into the menu. Zamanian envisions several different levels of tours, from a cursory experience that includes tastings to a hands-on tour that’ll give bourbon enthusiasts a glimpse of every aspect of production.
Zamanian and Motamedi are eager to get their bourbon and whiskey out to the public, because, after all, that is the ultimate test.
“Part of the butterflies has been about seeing how the consumers react,” admits Zamanian. “I think, for me, that’s where the anxiety comes from — not knowing how consumers will respond to your product.”
If a recent endorsement by prominent bourbon enthusiasts is any indication, he’s got nothing to lose sleep about. At August’s Bourbon Mixer event, which brings together local bourbon groups Bourbon Brotherhood and Whisky Chicks, Rabbit Hole won top votes from both parties.
Motamedi was at the event presenting samples of the products, and he was fueled by everyone’s curiosity and interest.
“It was a great experience seeing those men and women, who drink bourbon continuously, love the product as much as we do,” he says.
“It’s a real endorsement to hear them tell you they like your product, especially from these folks, who know their bourbon and whiskey.”