Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Hidden Barn/Neeley Family Distillery
Distillery: Neeley Family Distillery
Release Date: July 2022
Age: NAS (Press release states 4-5 years)
Mashbill: 70% Corn, 20% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
MSRP: $75 (2022)
Apricot | Butterscotch | Honey | Mint | Grain
Peach | White grape | Pear | Oak | Vanilla | Caramel
Allspice | Toasted oak | Black pepper | Medium length | Slightly dry
Jackie Zykan’s first release is the opposite style of her former employer Old Forester…and that’s OK.
Hidden Barn Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a new brand spearheaded by master distiller Royce Neeley of Neeley Family Distillery, Nate Winegar and Matt Dankner of Denver’s 5280 Whiskey Society, and Jackie Zykan, the former master taster of Old Forester. Zykan became well known in the industry, as the driving force behind Old Forester’s flavor profile and face for their marketing for many years. Her recent shocking exit warranted Old Forester to issue a press release announcing her departure from the company.
Only weeks later, Zykan announced the launch of Hidden Barn in which she is in charge of blending. The brand gets its name from the time during Prohibition when barns were used to distill liquor illegally, which would cause black stains to develop on barn walls caused by a naturally occurring microflora that feeds on airborne alcohol. According to the company’s press release, “in a sign of solidarity and community, Kentuckians would paint all barns black to make the still barns indistinguishable from others.”
As for the whiskey, it’s noticeably grain forward but not in an overly youthful way. Light peach, white grape, and pear become driving flavors of this bourbon. Mild oak and traditional notes of vanilla and caramel follow gently. Its 106 proof serves the whiskey well, adding just enough oomph to its fruit notes. At this stage the bourbon won’t shock anyone, it will perhaps be too grain forward for some, but thankfully it tastes uniquely its own. This isn’t an Old Forester adjacent bourbon, nor is it trying to be another similar tasting Kentucky bourbon. There is still work to be done, that the team, especially Zykan, is most likely fully aware of.
I expect Zykan took on this project as a place to stretch her creative muscle and have time to grow the brand without having to please her corporate overlords. With her involvement it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on how Hidden Barn Whiskey changes in the short term. The involvement of Neeley Family Distillery, who many are probably unfamiliar with, likely allows Zykan to be freewheeling. This type of pop-up brand with notable talent is likely going to become much more common and the resulting whiskeys will be unlike many are accustomed to. Case in point.