Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Rabbit Hole
Distillery: Contract Distilled at an Undisclosed Kentucky Distillery
Release Date: Ongoing
Age: 3 Years
Mashbill: 70% Corn, 25% Rye, 5% Malted Barley
Color: Light Gold
MSRP: $70 (2020)
Rabbit Hole was founded in 2012 by Kaveh Zamanian, clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who emigrated from Iran as a child. While living in Chicago, Zamanian met his wife, Heather, who introduced him to bourbon. Zamanian followed bourbon down a “rabbit hole” which is what led him to whiskey making. As Zamanian notes, “She pulled me down a rabbit hole I might never have dared alone, to the countryside of Kentucky, the progressive vibrancy of Louisville, and, inevitably, to Bourbon.”
In 2019, Pernod Ricard acquired a majority stake in Rabbit Hole with the intent to utilize Pernod Ricard’s distribution network, but maintain Rabbit Hole’s downtown Louisville-based location.
Soon after joining forces with Pernod Ricard, Rabbit Hole launched Heigold, and rebranded its core whiskeys with the intent of honoring Louisville figures along with the life of Zamanian. According to Rabbit Hole’s website, “[Heigold] pays tribute to an immigrant maker. Strong and bold, this offering honors Christian Heigold, a German stonecutter who settled in Louisville prior to 1850. Taken by the hope of this new land, he carved symbols of his patriotism on the facade of his now landmark home.”
While Rabbit Hole has maintained control over its mashbills and distilling process from its inception via contract distilling at an undisclosed Kentucky distillery, they began distilling onsite at their downtown Louisville location in 2018. As a result, the bourbon inside currently-available bottles of Heigold has been distilled at an undisclosed distillery in Kentucky. It’s expected that distillate originating from their Louisville distillery will make its way into bottles replacing that distilled elsewhere in the next year or so as it comes of age.
Caramel and gingerbread sweetness gently rise from the glass. A quick swirl reveals apricot and a touch of oak, adding a layer of dimension. It’s medium to light in overall intensity, and offers a pleasant and inviting introduction to the sip.
Sweet brown sugar and caramel contrast rye spice and burnt oak. The overall impression is characteristically sweet. The delivery is surprisingly gentle considering the proof, and the bourbon is relatively thin. Despite this, it’s an enjoyable combination of flavors few will find fault with.
A crescendo of rye spice briefly surges in the finish, with sweet flavors of vanilla, caramel, and gingerbread rushing back quickly. Medium-length, it ends on a sweet note which is consistent considering the rest of the sip.
On first glance Rabbit Hole’s sexy whiskey bottle with its modern design and elegant curves seems as if it may be just another marketing play - boring whiskey in a high end bottle. But a closer look reveals more than meets the eye: It’s 70% corn, 25% rye, 5% malted barley mashbill, a 3 year age statement, and information revealing it was aged in barrels from Kelvin Cooperage. While this inclusion of details may go unnoticed by most, it’s welcomed information for those seeking a little more background. Beyond the label, Rabbit Hole’s website reveals Heigold entered the barrel at 110 proof, much lower than the more typical (and maximum allowed by law) 125 proof, and was aged in char #3 barrels.
While only three years old, you would never guess it based on Heigold’s taste alone. It’s also characteristically sweet, maybe to a fault. Further, its 95 proof is not exceptionally high, however it drinks lower. This sweet, developed, and easy-sipping experience is sure to appeal to many. However, there are plenty of sweet, easy-drinking bourbons to choose from, making Rabbit Hole’s Heigold less of a standout than its packaging might suggest.
Founded in 2012, and now majority owned by spirits giant Pernod Ricard, Rabbit Hole is arguably beyond the initial “craft distillery” startup phase. Heigold is, however, priced at a premium $70 consistent with craft whiskeys seeking to fund their pricey startups.
Unlike many craft whiskeys however, there is little to dislike about Heigold. It’s sweet, approachable, and offers a good amount of flavor even if it drinks lower than its 95 proofpoint. Its $70 price point is undoubtedly a market positioning strategy, and considering its high end packaging design I don’t doubt it will fetch it in today’s market. However, considering other sweet-forward low-priced bourbons like Evan Williams Bottled in Bond, Larceny, and Maker’s Mark, to name a few, it’s hard to justify a $70 price tag for Heigold.
Rabbit Hole Heigold is a characteristically sweet, easy-drinking bourbon that’s hard to find anything to dislike about it except for its price.
I spent three days getting to know Rabbit Hole Heigold, and it grew on me during that time. It is shockingly developed for being only three years old, similar to the developed flavor I noticed with the two year old Breckenridge Bourbon. However, its $70 price tag is a hard pill to swallow, considering similar bourbons you can find for a much lower price tag. As time progresses, I would assume Rabbit Hole intends to surpass the four year mark and then some as most Kentucky bourbon makers strive for, further developing Heigold to add layers of dimension to what is already a tasty bourbon. Further, while they controlled the various aspects of distillation, this particular batch was not distilled at Rabbit Hole’s downtown Louisville distillery, which started up distillation in 2018. As a result, I’m excited to see how the product changes once that’s brought into the mix. Until then, for those seeking a sweet bourbon and who are willing to shell out a little extra coin, it certainly won’t disappoint.