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This Bold New Distillery Is Rewriting the Rules of Bourbon

Straight outta Kentucky, Hidden Barn Whiskey boasts A-list talent, nifty resources and fresh ideas about what makes a good bottle.

Committing to words tasting notes of a batch from Hidden Barn seems counter to the very identity of the brand. Plus, I’ve always found long lists that include words like “mouthfeel” to be a bit self-indulgent.

But I will say that the bourbon is singular. It’s complex and round and sits in your mouth, even between sips. Diluted with water, it keeps together, not slipping into a cheap version of itself on the melted end of a highball glass. Whereas some high-proof stuff — this batch clocks in at 110 — tends to hit a few notes really well, this pour feels more like a song played on a violin with extra strings. It’s layered in a way that makes you wonder how liquid that’s essentially 55 percent ethanol can sit in a barrel and become something so new that it’s hard to put into words — which I guess is why bourbon is worth sharing with friends.

What isn’t difficult to put into words is the very obvious presence of grain. It’s been a “big point of frustration in some of the reviews,” laments Zykan. And it’s easy to see why she’s frustrated: The grain, just like the fruitiness from the wild yeast, isn’t a flaw. It’s by design.

Unlike more modernized distilleries, which often distill to a scorching 160 proof (the legal limit), Neeley distilled Series One to around 127 proof. At this lower proof, more flavor is held onto in the distillate. To build on this flavor, Hidden Barn then barrels their distillate at 110 proof (again well below the legal limit for barrel entry of 125). The lower the proof of the liquid that enters the barrel, the more sugar that gets pulled out of the barrel. And at this lower proof, there’s more water, too, which interacts with the sugars differently than alcohol, lending a delicious fullgrain character.

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