Open the Bottle - Hidden Barn Series One Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
There are a few people in whiskey that I've always admired and hoped to one day meet. Jackie Zykan is up at the top of that list. I think it is hard to underestimate her impact at Old Forester and, as a fan of what that brand has become in recent years, I'm grateful to her for those contributions. I also like the entrepreneurial spirit of smaller distillers and the spirit of those who've worked to build true community in whiskey. Royce Neeley, Nate Winegar, and Matt Dankner, the other three partners in Hidden Barn, sure check those boxes. With Hidden Barn, they aren't doing anything the easy way. Wild yeast that is hand collected. Lower proof off the still than they could have used - 127 vs 160. Much lower barrel entry proof that costs much more - 110 vs 125. Barrels are seasoned for 2 years before filling. Nothing more than sediment filtering before bottling - nowhere to hide.
So it was with great hope that I did something I don't very often these days. I plunked down (placed an order on a website for local pick up) $75 plus tax on a bottle that isn't old or hard to find or that even has any track record at all upon which it can be judged. I did that to support all I mentioned above about whiskey and people but frankly, since they'd sell out every bottle anyway, I really did it because selfishly, I want to be a part of what Hidden Barn is doing. Spoiler alert: the bourbon is disappointing for me. I chime back in on myself during the video to just admit that. As much as I wanted to like it, I don't. It is challenging, rough, and youthful but without the payoff of bright enjoyable flavors. There are interesting aromas on the nose and hints of enjoyable flavors coming from some of those wonderful production choices but for me, they are obscured by unpleasantries. Far from saying this is objectively bad, I can see that when it's me against a world-renowned palate, it's likely I'm wrong or it's just a 'me' thing. Maybe Nate or Matt or Royce or even Jackie will reach out to help me see my error and explain why they let what to me tastes like charred wet cardboard out the door. Is it like cilantro where I have the genetics to taste a weird (not so weird given it lived in a charred barrel) flavor 90% of the world doesn't?
I'll share it with friends and see what other reactions I get. I can tell you my wife thought less of it than me but I'll keep trying. For now, $75 disappointment isn't a tasty pour at all. Join us on Friday Sips Live tomorrow (August 12, 2022 at 2:30pm MT) or watch the replay to see Dan's reaction.