"The use of copper pot stills, cypress fermentation tanks, and wild yeast gathered by hand, combined with the unique geography of Kentucky are what tease out the subtle variations and nuances that make this whiskey special."
JIM'S DESERT ISLAND WHISKEYS
Hidden Barn Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon WhiskeyBOTTLE DETAILS
SHARE WITH: Anyone who thinks calling a bourbon “grain forward” is a slight.
WORTH THE PRICE: No, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good or worth a try. The asking price is just too high for the admirable quality it delivers.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Bar. With an impressively creamy texture and delightful display of developed flavor for such a grain-forward bourbon, Batch 2 of Hidden Barn bourbon is a proof of concept, though it’s not yet a fully fleshed out concept unto itself. Give it a try now then wait patiently for either the price to come down or the age to go up.
OVERALL: Jackie Zykan’s name brings instant cache to the Hidden Barn brand due to her former role as the face of Old Forester and well established blending acumen. In becoming a founder with the upstart brand – joining Royce Neeley, Nate Winegar, and Matt Dankner – she’s gone from being an influential voice at a huge ship to directly steering a much smaller one and it’s a challenge she’s welcomed with open arms.
Joining the fledgling brand will allow her to completely chart a course for its future and that journey begins with Hidden Barn’s small batch expression. While batch 1 quickly sold out and was released to tepid reviews, batch 2 represents a strong step forward. There’s nuance, a dark sweetness, and some rich developed flavor here that shines even at just 4-5 years old. The balance on display is no doubt due to the Hidden Barn team’s blending prowess and the whiskey in this batch represents some of the oldest in the Neeley Family Distillery stock. This is noteworthy because it’s reasonable to assume that their whiskey will improve as they continue to perfect their production practices and flesh out their vision for the Hidden Barn brand.
While some often use “grain forward” as code for “harsh” or “unpleasant” I think that the descriptor can be deployed here as neither a compliment or a criticism but rather a statement of fact. Hidden Barn batch 2 doesn’t shy away from letting the grain shine and adds notes of fruit, dark caramel, and baking spice to offer a balanced pour that will make believers out of those who might otherwise deride younger bourbons. While the price point is a head scratcher (insert here: craft brands need to charge more because they don’t have the economies of scale on their side!) I think that those who happen to try this expression will appreciate the promise it holds. If this were priced $40 cheaper, which is admittedly a considerable discount, then I would certainly recommend buying a bottle. At $75 I wouldn’t do so. I would, however, encourage you to seek out a taste and decide for yourself whether future batches are worth an investment.
BRAND TASTING NOTES
The Whiskey Made the Hard Way series was fermented using wild yeast and is double pot distilled. It was collected at 127 proof, and entered the barrel at 110 proof. The seven barrels represent some of the first lots to mature under the watchful eye of Neeley. To maintain the integrity and viscosity of the liquid, the bourbon is screened for sediment and sees no additional filtration.
What to expect (in order of prominence): Almond, Butterscotch, Sweet Cherry, Dried Fig, Black Tea, Spearmint, Allspice, Black Pepper, Grapefruit Peel, Cardamom
Born and raised in New Jersey, Frank’s enthusiasm for bourbon began as an embrace of what he hated. He tried a bottle popular among enthusiasts and was so captivated by the disconnect between what whiskey geeks said was “good” and his own tastes that he just had to learn more. That opened the floodgates for a journey of exploration that led him to a deeper appreciation for America’s Native Spirit. While on that journey Frank decided to start chronicling his tasting notes, sharing his passion on social media, and engaging one-on-one with brands to discover as much as possible about his own taste and the industry at large. Now fully immersed in the world of whiskey, he encourages people not to curb their enthusiasm but to bourb’ their enthusiasm.