By Father John Rayls
The Basil Hayden name dates back over two hundred years, to the earliest period of bourbon production in Maryland and Kentucky. Kentucky was the new land of promise, and one which appeared to offer everything needed for superior whiskey development.
As the story goes, Basil was interested in differentiating his bourbon from all the others. He began experimenting with the amount of rye grain he used, mixing it into the corn mash at about double the usual amount to get a spicier bourbon whiskey flavor.
The bourbon named for him was originally introduced as an 8 year old whiskey, and as the lighter, rye-forward member of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection. Basil Hayden has since gone NAS, Beam was bought by Suntory, and the Small Batch Collection concept is not as prominent as it used to be. However, Basil Hayden has lately become more popular than ever before.
While I hate to make the bottle itself a big part of a review, Basil Hayden’s is somewhat annoying. The distillery uses a paper strip across the cap and down two sides of the bottleneck. When it’s removed, torn paper and residue remain on the neck. In addition, the actual label is easily torn in half as well leaving a much less attractive bottle. Finally, a metal band surrounds the bottle which makes the bottle more difficult to grasp and more involved to manipulate. All of this distracts from the whiskey itself rather than leading the consumer deeper into the experience.
The appearance in the glass is one with a golden copper coloring, although the color is a little darker in the bottle. The legs are thin to medium and somewhat subtle. Indeed, everything about this bourbon comes across as subtle and understated.
The nose is a little spicy, with a slight peppermint tea aroma. There are also some faint cereals underneath it all, but you need to focus and stay with it to pick up the subtleties. This is a very light-bodied bourbon, and this may be surprising, but the palate is rather quiet. There are notes of honey cereal with some light spice. There is a slight bite at the back of the tongue and the back of the roof of the mouth. The finish is actually the best part of the experience, as it brings some nice spice with some interesting pepper included, but, alas, it’s a bit short.
This is an 80 proof, easy drinking bourbon, but one that displays some complexity. It might be most appropriate as a pre-dinner drink because it leaves a clean palate. You will definitely want to drink this bourbon neat. There just isn’t enough there… there to justify mixing or cocktails.
The bourbon generally retails in the $40.00 to $50.00 range. However, you can sometimes find find it on special as low as $29.99 and as high as $55.00 to $60.00, depending on scarcity.
Editor’s Note: This review replaces our original Basil Hayden 8 Year Old Review, one that dated from 2011.