Rabbit Hole Distillery is one of the many sleek, modern-day distilleries that have taken up residence in downtown Louisville over the last 15 years. New distilleries know Kentucky is the place to set up shop in order to get some street cred when first starting out. But since you’re hanging with the big boys, it makes the competition that much more intense. You have to prove you’re up to the task of distilling America’s spirit in the state that is most associated with it.
When Rabbit Hole first started, founder Kaveh Zamanian needed help producing his whiskies before his own distillery could finish construction. He knew the mash bills he wanted produced, so he searched for a contract distiller that had the capacity. Rabbit Hole has never specifically said which Kentucky distillery that was, but they hinted to it being in Northern Kentucky. New Riff‘s timeline of when they first came online seems to fit the description perfectly.
Rabbit Hole begins to make their own whiskey
When Pernod Ricard bought out the Rabbit Hole brand in 2019, the brand was already revamping their style for the mass market. Their core whiskey lineup consisted of 3 different bourbons (1 of which was finished in PX Sherry Casks) and 1 rye whiskey. The fascinating thing is that right from the start they used different mash bills in each style of whiskey. Most distilleries choose one mashbill and make different labels depending on the proof it’s bottled at (Weller is a good example of this). Today’s bourbon I’m reviewing, Rabbit Hole Heigold, has a mashbill of 70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malted barley. It was put into a toasted and charred (#3 char) barrel at 110 proof and aged in a metal clad warehouse for at least 3 years.
When Rabbit Hole began their own whiskey production in 2018 on their new 24″ diameter copper column still, they ceased having New Riff contract distill their products. This means that any bottle of Heigold you see on the shelves could have been distilled at New Riff or Rabbit Hole. And knowing that each small batch consists of only 15 barrels, you could run into the very real possibility that bottles will vary wildly depending on which store you bought it from (assuming stores sell at different rates). I’m sure Rabbit Hole’s blender will tell you how that’s not very likely, but I’m not so sure.
My bottle of Heigold was given to me from a friend in 2021 making the origin of its liquid somewhat of a mystery. But I’m going to try it out anyway and see what I think Rabbit Hole is trying to capture as far as its profile is concerned. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.
Nose: A pleasant scent of toasted caramel, toffee and a bit of butterscotch. All are scents any bourbon enthusiast would like. Vanilla custard and a faint amount of oak show some nice barrel notes, but can’t entirely cover up the toasted grains scent. It’s not really grainy, but it doesn’t exactly smell aged either. There is a noticeable lack of fruit and aged scents like leathers and tobaccos, as one might expect with a 3 year age statement. Overall, a very pleasant nose that lacks an exciting dynamic.
Palate: The mouthfeel comes off creamier than I expected it to be. Sweetness is found everywhere in sufficient quantities to mostly cover up a bit of youthful astringency and graininess still hiding in the background. Cherries and apricots can be found and there is a bit of cinnamon spice and even oak spice lurking here and there. Some of the baking spices are soft while others are a bit raw and come off as sharp. As the sip goes on, an element of wintergreen mint comes out and the stone fruits seem to overtake the sweetness.
Finish: For the youthful age statement, there are more tannins than I was thinking I’d find. Dry wood and barrel char follow heavily caramelized stone fruit. The finish has a slight herbaciousness in the end, with mint sticking out the most. This does not ruin the overall sweetness, but is interesting nonetheless.
The finale to this review isn’t going to see me swinging wildly one way or another with an opinion. Overall, this is a perfectly fine 95 proof bourbon with pleasant flavors and scents and a simplicity that most people will be happy with. The sweetness is definitely its strongest trait while the slight graininess and overall lack of excitement could be viewed as its main detractors.
With such a so-so analysis, I would say that buying this bourbon comes down to how much money you typically spend on your whiskies in a given period of time and how much variety you demand. Many people would outright reject the thought of spending ~$60 on a bourbon that is under 100 proof and not even 4 years old. Maybe if a unique finishing barrel was involved or an especially revered master distiller put their name on it, I could see laying down three Andrew Jackson’s, but none of that applies here.
I understand that Rabbit Hole needs to sell their bottles at elevated prices to pay for that beautiful new facility as well as paying the “Pernod Ricard” tax. But there’s no hiding this only drinks like a $30 bottle. And until the price either comes down or the specs go up, there’s not much to see here yet. I do want to encourage everyone to keep an open mind about this brand in the coming years as they start to release older products because this does have some potential. But for now it needs some more age for us to see what it’s capable of.
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