Rabbit Hole Distillery is located at 727 E. Jefferson St. | Photo by Sara Havens

Rabbit Hole Distillery, the first of three bourbon experiences to open this year in Louisville, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and first-look tour Tuesday morning for staff, industry representatives, city officials, business people and media.

In a speech before the ribbon cutting, the founder Kaveh Zamanian said that he and his team had been waiting for this day for a long time.

“We’re opening Kentucky’s newest whiskey distillery out of nothing on a place that was a rundown warehouse and a vacant lot,” he began. “From the beginning, I set out to build a brand that raises the bar — a modern, distinct, authentic and innovative brand that is built in the place of providence. A place that is rooted tradition but is also forward-thinking. A place the embodies bourbon’s creative spirit. For Rabbit Hole, I couldn’t have imagined a better place than Louisville.”

Guests were invited to sign a barrel. | Photo by Sara Havens

The $15 million, 55,000-square-foot facility is located in NuLu between East Market and Jefferson streets and features a state-of-the-art distillery that showcases the bourbon-making experience from glass to grain.

Zamanian said Rabbit Hole Distilling wants to be as transparent as possible, so the tour peeks in on each part of the process either by window or hands-on.

The modern structure, created by the architect Douglas V. Pierson, definitely stands out in the NuLu landscape and towers as high as the nearby hotels. But inside, an open-space concept — with wide staircases zigzagging at various levels to view the distillery’s many components from all angles — feels comfortable and intimate.

A bar greets visitors as they enter off Jefferson Street, and as they make their way up to the distillery’s top floor, which offers incredible views of the Louisville cityscape, they’ll find another tasting bar and lounge. The distillery also has elevators for those who can’t do stairs.

Zamanian said the idea for the distillery’s design came from his love of the German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Pierson was able to take van der Rohe’s ideology of minimal framework and create the modern-meets-tradition Rabbit Hole Distillery.

“He (Pierson) designed a modernist cathedral built around the process of making bourbon,” explained Zamanian. “Every aspect of the building is designed to follow and pay respect to the art and science of distilling. Rabbit Hole’s mission of transparency is not an empty marketing slogan or simple cliché — it is a reality in our distillery.”

Mayor Greg Fischer presented Rabbit Hole founder Kaveh Zamanian with a plaque. | Photo by Sara Havens

Mayor Greg Fischer also was on hand to commemorate the occasion, and he gave kudos to Zamanian and the Rabbit Hole team.

“The concept, the style with which this project was envisioned and completed and to where it’s going to go is something that puts a big smile on my face when I think about the future of our city,” said Fischer. “What’s so neat about bourbonism is we can go into beautiful, adaptive re-use buildings or have tremendous modern architecture jewels like this, but they all say the same thing: Welcome, come in, experience the best of what we have to offer.”

The Rabbit Hole Distillery will be open Saturday, May 5, for its inaugural Derby Party, and then it’ll open officially for public tours in June.

Here are more images from the ribbon cutting and tour: