Hands-On With Race King
Rabbit Hole Distillery rests unassumingly in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky. Their standard lineup consists of four whiskeys, gin, and vodka. However, they have a premium line of limited edition whiskeys called “The Founder’s Collection,” and its newest entry is a double chocolate, five-grain whiskey called Race King.
The Founder’s Collection line is the brainchild of Kaveh Zamanian, the founder and palate behind Rabbit Hole. He is an adamant lover and collector of whiskey. He even is rumored to have a private collection of barrels that he taps into and enjoys from time to time.
Each of the releases is specially crafted and directed by Kaveh to become something he deems truly special and unique.
Race King is Five-Grain?
We all know whiskey is made from grain. And, most of us are familiar with the recent surge of four-grain bourbons hitting shelves.
Traditionally, these whiskeys are made by combining corn, wheat, rye, and barley into the mash. It gives the whiskey full-body and depth due to the interweaving of these different grains. These four-grain recipes are usually created to highlight a specific balance of grain, accentuating a particular characteristic or flavor profile. In layman’s terms, it’s typically single-grain dominant, supported by a cast of secondary grains.
A distillery may use one unique varietal not typically found in many whiskeys, and use the supporting grains to balance that uniqueness with more classic flavor profiles. This gives the whiskey a unique dimension without compromising its approachability.
But, Rabbit Hole has added some unique grains for this particular entry. It has chosen to include not one, but two specialty grains. It has incorporated both chocolate malted wheat and barley into this unique expression.
It clocks in at 109.2 proof.
What is Chocolate Malt?
Chocolate malt, the kind distillers and brewers are used, is made by roasting grain. But, not the light kind of roasting that’s just enough to dry out the grains. They’re roasted to a much higher temperature until the grain turns a dark brown. This color looks a lot like, you guessed it, chocolate.
Traditionally, roasting grains is used to halt the chemical conversion process. Drying out the grains will stop further malting and starch conversion, and is used to preserve the grains as they are. That is, until they’re ground down and cooked in a mash.
However, chocolate malting takes the opposite approach.
The roasting actually changes the structure of the grains. It breaks down chemicals and causes the grain to dramatically change. Heating the grains to that degree intensifies them. It makes the grains more
Contrary to the name, there’s not actually cocoa in a chocolate malt. However, this deep roasting of the grains does give it a bit of a bittersweet chocolate flavor.
Too much chocolate malt can overpower the whiskey and make it harsh and unappealing. But, if you get it just right, it can add new depth and complexity to a whiskey along with adding rich and full flavors traditional grains can’t offer.
So, How Is It?
Well, the short of it is, Race King is good. It’s actually darn good. I was worried the double chocolate malt would be overpowering to the pour. However, when we tried it with Adam, it was delicious, subtle, and most of all decadent.
It drinks a bit below proof. At nearly 110, it drinks closer to a Bottled-In-Bond expression than it does something nearly 10 points higher.
The nose is clean and of pronounced intensity. It has beautiful notes of baked brown sugar, dark cocoa, sweet corn, toasted soda bread, baking spices, and cinnamon.
The palate is off-sweet, pronouncedly intense with a full mouthfeel, and has notes of lightly sweetened dark hazelnut chocolate nibs, robust tobacco, roasted sweetcorn, baking spices, oak, and just a hint of cinnamon.
Overall, it’s a flavor bomb of a whiskey.
Rabbit Hole really succeeded in using the chocolate malt to its fullest. And, somehow were able to pack two different chocolate malted grains without completely overpowering the whiskey.
The chocolate noes are a delicious complement to a colorful cast of supporting flavors brought about by the other three grains.
If you want to learn more about Rabbit Hole’s newest expression, you can click here or check out our podcast with Adam by clicking here.
Greg Sinadinos started his spirits journey writing a whiskey periodical for Fine Tobacco NYC Magazine. He began answering review requests under a social media page he named “Whiskey Culture,” which quickly merged with Greg’s passion for connecting with others and his interest in history.
Today, Greg travels the country not just looking for great whiskey, but also exploring the history and individuals that the whiskey community is founded upon. He has authored “Whiskey History From Around The World” and is the host of “The Rickhouse” web series.