Kaveh Zamanian, Founder, Whiskey Maker and CEO of Rabbit Hole Distillery came to bourbon making on his own unique path. Zamanian left Iran in 1979 during the revolution and founded Rabbit Hole in 2012. He blends the immigrant whiskey maker tradition with time-honored methods, diverse perspectives, and modernist aesthetics.
Watch the video as Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris introduces the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame 2022 class to Kaveh Zamanian.
There is a simple Latin phrase emblazoned on every bottle of Rabbit Hole Whiskey – Amare et Opus. It translates to “love and work.” It’s Kaveh Zamanian’s family motto and his north star. In his own words, it means “Find what you love, go all in, and never look back.” Ultimately, it’s the spirit that led him to Kentucky and the reason he’s a whiskey maker.
The Bluegrass has a long tradition of immigrant whiskey makers who collectively shaped the foundation of bourbon. Kaveh’s proud to call himself one of them. Kaveh arrived in America in 1979 when he and his family fled their homeland during the Iranian revolution. With little more than determination for a better life, they relocated to California. In Iran, Kaveh’s father had been a physician, yet he could only qualify as a nurse’s aid in America. Humbled, but undeterred, he reclaimed his professional status through singular focus and an unrelenting work ethic. That lesson was not lost on Kaveh.
He earned a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology followed by a post-graduate fellowship at Northwestern University Medical School and training at the Chicago Center for Psychoanalysis. After graduation, Kaveh taught as an associate professor and operated a successful practice as a clinical psychologist in Chicago for nearly 20 years.
To put himself through school, Kaveh worked in the hospitality industry. That’s where his passion for spirits took hold. He found the warm-hearted, social nature of spirits enthralling — the way they were shared in moments of joy, love, laughter, and friendship. Initially, he was drawn to Scotch because of the reverence and mystique that surrounded it. But then fate intervened when he met his wife, who happens to be from Kentucky.
Throughout the early 2000s, Kaveh and his family made frequent trips to the Bluegrass state, where Bourbon’s vibrant traditions and nuanced flavors captivated him. Bourbon seemed like a sleeping giant to Kaveh. He felt Bourbon could do for Kentucky what wine did for California. And he wanted to be a part of it. His passion for bourbon soon grew to an outright obsession.
In 2008, Kaveh and his family moved to Louisville so he could pursue his passion unabated. He created an informal Bourbon master’s program, reading everything about it that he could get his hands on. He trained with some of the most renowned master distillers on the art and science of whiskey making, and he learned everything from design and marketing to logistics and distribution.
Then, after years of rigorous research and planning, Kaveh founded Rabbit Hole in 2012 with a clear vision to honor the pioneers and rebels who laid the foundation for America’s native spirit by constantly pushing past the status quo. He feels a sense of duty to maintain the integrity and deep traditions they established for bourbon. For Kaveh believes bourbon deserves reverence on par with the world’s finest spirits, and he’s determined to help make that happen.
So, here’s to finding what you love, going all in and never, ever looking back!
Watch the Entire 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony
- The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Inducts its 20th Class with Lots of Laughter and Few Tears [Video Part 1]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Michter’s Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson [Video Part 2]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Old Rip Van Winkle’s Julian P. Van Winkle, III [Video Part 3]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Spirits Industry Supporter Representative Chad McCoy [Video Part 5]
- The 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Welcomes Founder of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus John Yarmuth [Video Part 6]
- 2022 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award Goes to Kentucky Artisan’s Stephen Thompson [Video Part 7]
- Founder of Kentucky Artisan Distillery and Former President of Brown-Forman Distilleries Steve Thompson has Passed Away