Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Master blender Jackie Zykan and master blender Royce Neeley of Hidden Barn Whiskey have not too long ago released their second in a series of small-batch bourbons, composed of a mere ten barrels and featuring a rye-heavy mash bill. With decades of experience between them, Zykan and Neeley make up one half of Hidden Barn’s founding partnership (the others being brand ambassador Nate Winegar and finance/operations lead Matt Dankner). They’ve put their hard-earned wisdom to use with creative and interesting whiskeys that represent a long legacy of bourbon in Kentucky and, in Neeley’s case, even further back to Ireland 11 generations ago.
The name Hidden Barn, of course, refers to the prohibition era, wherein Kentuckians would construct home whiskey or moonshine stills in barns hidden off the beaten path. There is a certain camaraderie associated with these places, a sense of community coming together to enjoy something despite—or perhaps as a direct response to—the law disallowing that luxury liquid that made it all special.
This sentiment is what brought the four above mentioned founders together, and now it’s their wish that their product invoke the same sense of friendship and fun, if not necessarily the danger and illegality. Then again, Neeley has a history of both legal and illegal distillation by his own admission, so maybe invoking a bit of that thrill is part of the team’s goal as well.
Zykan, meanwhile, has a long and storied history in the whiskey industry, having worked in varying capacities for brands such as Four Roses Bourbon, Heaven Hill Distillery, Woodford Reserve, and most recently Old Forrester. Perhaps even more storied is her discerning palate, a factor which this reviewer finds very intimidating. An unexpectedly long car ride with Hidden Barn partner and 5280 Whiskey Society co-founder (alongside Dankner) Nate Winegar revealed their shared interests in launching a new whiskey brand. Zykan left Old Forrester in 2022 for Hidden Barn.
With such notable figures leading the charge, it should be no surprise that the Series Two bourbon is rigorously considered every step of the way. Offering far more transparency in both ingredient sourcing and distillation practices than most brands, Hidden Barn makes it clear that this bourbon was a labor of love. From the water for the three or four day mash sourced from Christian County, Kentucky to the Kevin Cooperage American White Oak barrels in which the undiluted distillate is matured, not a speck of the distilling process was overlooked or phoned in.
Tasting Notes: Hidden Barn Bourbon Series 2
Vital Stats: 112 Proof (56% ABV). Mash fermented 3-4 days using Christian County, KY water. Double pot distilled by MB Roland Distillery (D.S.P. 15010) Pembroke, KY. Aged 5-6 years in Kevin Cooperage American White Oak Barrels. Sediment filtered only. Mash bill: 60% corn (Christian County grain) 35% rye (Walnut Grove Farms) 5% malted barley (Southfork Malt House.)
Appearance: A rich, warm garnet color with very high viscosity.
Nose: Dark grapes fil the nostrils instantly, giving way to notes of fresh-squeezed apple cider, chocolate, and a hint of thyme.
Palate: Again sweet grape is present, but blackberry joins it to reinforce the dark fruit focus. A well-restrained note of chocolate covered cherries provides support. There is medium smokiness throughout, with a bit of fatty walnut underlying. The finish is quite strong and attempts to end cleanly with a pronounced mint note. Unfortunately, I found this somewhat unpleasant, arguably unnecessary, and at odds with the other flavors.