Recently I had an excellent visit with a very talented young distiller working at Rabbit Hole Distillery. Five years ago when I got into the legal industry I was the first legal distiller living in and from Washington County Indiana and furthermore the counties that made up the “Black Forrest of Indiana” distilling complex in 97 years. Sad considering the heritage and tradition of Hoosier Distillers in this region. Now there is a second name on that list from the same county and with a bright future at only 24 years old! Lexus Hoskins is the first ever legal female distiller living in and from the Black Forrest region/Washington County and working alongside a large Bourbon producer in Louisville Kentucky. I was impressed with her knowledge and love of the industry and look forward to seeing all she will accomplish in the future!
Tell us a little about your background here in Washington County.
– I grew up about 15 min from the Salem Square. I attended Salem Community Schools and graduated in 2013. Throughout my high school career I was highly involved in a numerous amount of activities including band, choir, and the dance team. I was also an Academic Honors student.
Did you ever have an interest in distilling prior to becoming a tour guide?
– I truly had not thought about it until I came to Rabbit Hole. I figured with my background I would stay in the marketing and/or hospitality path that I’d been following since I was 16 years old. About a month into my employment, I was casually talking to our head of production, Cameron Talley, about distillation. I basically told him I could see myself in production in 5+ years, and he informed me they were currently hiring for new distillers. At first, I wasn’t 100% confident I’d even be offered an interview, but realized that if I wanted to test & challenge myself, I had to dive on in. You could say, there was no going back.
Lexus, tell me a little about how you initially go into the distilling industry via Evan Williams.
– During my junior year in college, a friend of mind from IU Southeast, Alex Lynch, was working at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience and knew that I was looking for a new part-time job. He told me they were hiring part-time tour guides. He said I’d be perfect for the position, saying they hand you a script, you learn it, you drink bourbon, and get paid to it! As a freshly, 21-year-old, of course I was sold. And initially, I saw it as an opportunity to network with Louisvillians as well as people from across the globe. It wasn’t until I graduated college that I even considered staying within the bourbon industry.
What is your go to Bourbon outside of Rabbit Hole?
– This is a tricky question because it really depends on my mood or situation. I drink just about anything, whether it be neat, on rocks, or in a cocktail. There are also so many bourbons and whiskeys I’ve yet to try. I’ll tell you some of the products I currently have in my liquor cabinet: Evan Williams White Label, Knob Creek Single Barrel, Evan Williams KY Cider, Evan Williams Peach, Henry McKenna, Larceny, Willett Rye, Rabbit Hole KY Straight Bourbon, Rabbit Hole Rye Whiskey, Jim Beam Double Oak, and Woodford Reserve.
Talk to us a little about your training to become a distiller at Rabbit Hole, what has been the most rewarding part and what has been the most frustrating part?
– First of all, let me just say that I always have and always will be my worst critic. I get frustrated with myself because I have this need to get everything right the first time. This position has definitely taught me that it’s ok to recognize your faults and mistakes and continue to do better. I wouldn’t necessarily define this as frustrating but more as difficult, but forso long, I had been talking about the grand scheme of distillation as a tour guide. I realized very quickly that there was so much that I didn’t know. So, for me, it was like learning my career all over again. However, my boss, Cameron Talley, is excellent at explaining the whys and hows of every aspect of the job. My co-workers are also very helpful when it comes to education of the job. Cameron emphasizes extensive and continuous education for all the distillers. With that said, the most rewarding part iswhen I feel confident in what I’ve learned, applying it to my duties, and knowing I’ve performed well.
Do you have plans to expand your distilling education in the future at a school or to learn in the old way as an apprentice of the art?
– As of now, it’s hard to say where I’ll be in the future. I mean, I’ve only been a distiller for 4 months.
What excites you the most about this industry?
– The fact that I’m one of handful of female distillers excites me the most. Women in bourbon is becoming of a key topic in the industry. Really proud to be a part of a company that is forward-thinking and recognizes the importance of being supportive of women in Bourbon.
Anyone in the industry in particular that you look up to such as Charlie Downs?
– I have a good amount of people I look up to from Evan Williams & Rabbit Hole:
From Evan Williams, I look up to Charlie Downs, Jodie Filiatreau, Jeff Crowe, Ashley Cuyjet & Vicky Fugitte. Jeff & Ashley were the ones that gave me a chance by hiring me as a tour guide. Even though they were my superiors, I always felt like I could talk to them about anything. All of the managers and coordinators at EWBE were incredible. They were sad to see me leave, but wished me all the luck in the world. Charlie & Jodie were the first two distillers that I had a close encounter with. They were very transparent about answering any and all questions about distillation. Now Vicky is currently the general manager for Michter’s distillery that recently opened up in downtown Louisville. She was my trainer and mentor at EWBE. She was the first person who taught me everything I know now. She didn’t just teach me about bourbon, she also taught me about Louisville history as well as other distilleries and how they play a part in the industry. She also taught me her signature laugh and hair flip when networking.
From Rabbit Hole, I look up to our CEO, Kaveh Zamanian as well as Jennifer Murley, Danielle Bramblett & Cameron Talley. Kaveh’s story of fulfilling his dream of building a distillery is so inspiring. The fact that one choice could make a huge difference in one’s life, knowing there’s no going back, really hits home for me. When I first met him, I truly didn’t know what to expect. But I saw a man that really cares about his crew. The first thing he asked was, “What’s your story?” and “Where do you see yourself with Rabbit Hole?” When I told him that I could see myself as a distiller, he, and Cameron Talley, gave me a chance and I cannot thank them enough for it. Jennifer was, briefly, my boss when I was initially hired as a tour guide. She and Danielle (Event Manager) have given me so much advice based upon their experiences; everything from figuring out your personality and worth to figuringout how to buy your first house. They’re both incredible smart, beautiful women and I’m so happy to call them my friends. Lastly, Cameron, I can honestly, say is one of the most understanding and caring bosses I’ve ever had. He always says he wants the environment to be fun and educational. In my opinion, I’d say that goal has been achieved, and if I ever decide to apply for any managerial position, I hope I can be as great as him.
Tell us a little about what makes Rabbit Hole different
– Rabbit Hole is different in many ways. We take the modern approach to whiskey making, while still honoring Bourbon’s tradition, history, and reiterating that’s it’s truly an American spirit. When visiting our facility, one of the biggest topics we focus on is the transparency of our products and company. We show you every step in the process of making Rabbit Hole spirits.
Where do you see yourself in the industry (or elsewhere) in 10 years?
– Again, it’s very hard to answer that question because I still have so much to learn and experience in the industry. I will say that I will continue to be involved in the industry and community. I have so many loves and interests outside bourbon. The sky is truly the limit for me, and I can’t wait to see what life has in store.