I was browsing my local liquor store here in Chicago and a new display of Rabbit Hole spirits caught my eye. It’s kind of hard not to notice it, actually — the bottle is pretty distinct, and is even adorned with a faux gold medal from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. (Naturally, I had to find out if that medal was deserved… or not.)
Pardon the pun, but in 2012 Kaveh Zamanian decided to go down the rabbit hole and founded the aptly named distillery. Striving to create a product that stood out amongst the crowd, he gave up his career as a psychologist in order to create “modern whiskeys that challenge the status quo and offer a new vision of what an authentic whiskey can be”.
Using a unique mash bill for their products, Rabbit Hole is trying to redefine the category of a premium American whiskey. They also find innovative ways to enhance their grains through the use of culinary techniques:
The distillery has also built a reputation for finding efficiencies and innovations in production. They cook grains with the care of “culinary chefs,” after putting much time in the lab into discovering optimal set points in temperature holding, and other cooking components.
“We look at the grain-cooking process as a big part of flavor,” Zamanian says. “It’s actually the only proprietary part of our entire production. We have already established our fingerprints on our products just in the way that we cook our grains.”https://beveragedynamics.com/2019/09/06/why-has-rabbit-hole-emerged-in-a-crowded-whiskey-market/
It’s definitely great to see a unique process and innovation happening in the Louisville, Kentucky area.
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
Rabbit Hole Cavehill has a unique mash bill with 70% corn, 10% malted wheat, 10% honey malted barley, and 10% malted barley. The honey malted barley is what stands out the most to me. I’ve most often seen it used in beer brewing — typically, to add sweetness to many of the European styles of Marzen, Bock, Dunkel, or Scottish Ale.
As with all bourbon, the spirit is aged in new charred oak barrels. However, before the barrels are charred they are slowly toasted which, according to the Rabbit Hole website, “coaxes sugars from deep in the fibers of the wood which mingle with the distillate during the aging process.”
The spirit is aged for over 3 years in these barrels. After reaching maturity, Rabbit Hill blends no more than 15 barrels before bottling the final product.
The bottle is eye catching. The 750 ml bottle is tall and rectangular, with slight inward curves. Embossed on the lower front of the bottle is a rabbit jumping into a hole.
The label looks like a black sash draped diagonally across the bottle, with gold lettering spelling out the name of the distillery and variety. The neck of the bottle is wrapped the same black label with the location of the distillery, Louisville, Kentucky, at the same diagonal as below. The bottle is capped with a synthetic cork stopper.
This bottle would look great at your own bar or on a bar back. The burnished copper spirit shows clearly through the bottle.
My first glass of Cavehill had a strong peppery aroma, followed by notes of caramel and a slight hint of apricot. However, underneath the more pleasant smell is a pungent smell of alcohol… never a great sign.
The first flavor you taste is the pepper, which nearly engulfs the first sip. Once that passes, though, you can pick up notes of sweetness – think honey, vanilla, and clove – which give way to the flavor of a rich old world pretzel. It almost reminds me of sitting in a biergarten in Germany. The honey malted barley definitely make a presence.
It finishes with a strong alcohol taste. All in all, it’s promising… but almost makes you wonder if the spirit could have used a few more years in the barrel to mature and build a richer character.
I was understandably hopeful that the addition of ice will help deliver on the promising start here. Ice can help dilute and tone down harsher flavors, so it follows that this spirit should only benefit from the addition of a cube or two.
And thankfully (because that “ice will help” hypothesis doesn’t always prove out), the harsher flavors do begin to close up when sipping Cavehill on ice. The underlying flavor of the raw alcohol begins to dissipate and what you are left with is a sweet bourbon, with notes of fig and baked apple.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Unfortunately, the flavors of the spirit disappear entirely when used in an old fashioned. While I could tell there was a bourbon in the drink, I would not have been able to pick out which bourbon was used — or any of the unique flavors that made this interesting when taken neat or on ice.
I might as well be using a less premium spirit — all I could taste was orange and bitters.
Just like in the Old Fashioned, I know there is bourbon in the drink… but all I can taste is the mixer. I can’t say I’m surprised, though — if a spirit can’t stand up to some bitters, there’s absolutely no way it can hold its own against lime and ginger.
So… yeah. The Cavehill completely folds to the ginger beer. Sadly, there is nothing distinct that remains with this cocktail and, again, you might as well use a less expensive bourbon.
While not a bourbon you want to use in a cocktail, this does have a very distinct flavor profile. The honey malted barely brings a uniqueness to the grain bill that I’ve never found in another bourbon. Rabbit Hole is a newer distillery, and I’m hopeful that their product will continue to evolve and become more complex — and maybe they’ll someday decide to leave this in the barrel for an extra year or two. For now, this isn’t my favorite bourbon, but I will be keeping an eye on Rabbit Hole’s portfolio in the coming years.
|Rabbit Hole Cavehill Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey|
Kentucky, United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 47.5% ABV
Price: $59.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
When going down the Rabbit Hole, don’t consume every bottle that says “Drink Me”.