Now that 2013 is well under way I thought I should get back into the swing of things and start posting some Bourbon reviews. To kick things off we’re featuring a Basil Hayden’s Bourbon review for your reading pleasure. Many of you are probably already familiar with Basil Hayden’s, but for those who are new to the brand I encourage you read on and learn about this under-rated gem of a Bourbon.
Basil Hayden’s is one of four Bourbons that make up Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection. Baker’s, Knob Creek and Booker’s round out the Small Batch Collection with Basil Hayden’s being the lightest of the four Bourbons coming in at 80 proof, which makes it a fantastic Bourbon for those who are new to Bourbon and want to take a measured approach to their tasting journey.
According to information found in Wikipedia,
The Basil Hayden’s bourbon brand is named in honor of Basil Hayden, Sr., who was a Maryland Catholic that led a group of twenty-five Catholic families from Maryland into what is now Nelson County, Kentucky (near Bardstown) in 1785. This area is home to many of the famous bourbon brands, including Jim Beam. There Hayden donated the land for the first Catholic church west of the Alleghenies and the first Catholic church in what is now the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Hayden was also a distiller, and he used a larger amount of rye in his mash than in some other bourbons. Later, Hayden’s grandson Raymond B. Hayden founded a distillery in Nelson County and named his label “Old Grand-Dad” in honor of his grandfather. The picture on the bottle was copied from a rendering of Basil Sr.’s likeness. When Beam Industries introduced their “small batch” collection, among the four was “Basil Hayden’s”, which the company says uses a mash similar to that originally utilized by Hayden in 1792.
Basil Hayden’s was one of the first Bourbons I was exposed to and I immediately fell in love with it’s spicy flavor due to its higher than normal rye content. Even now it’s one that I always keep on hand and often buy as a gift for friends who are looking to get into Bourbon. Now only is it a tasty Bourbon but the bottle looks damn cool. Definitely a nice one to have sitting out on your home bar the next time guests stop by for drinks.
Let’s dive right in and find out a little bit more about this wonderful Bourbon:
How I Drank It: Neat, in my special bourbon glass (please don’t be jealous)
My Nose Noticed:* Spice | Mint | Tea Leaves
First Sip: Honey | Hints of Vanilla | Lots of Rye
The Burn:** As you take your first sip you’ll notice that it’s very thin on the tongue but packs a wonderful spicy punch. The burn is minimal and is focused solely on the mouth as opposed to the back of the throat like higher-proof Bourbons. It should also be noted that the burn disappears quickly with a very short, dry finish. Add it all up and you have a great Bourbon for novices.
Neat, Splash or Rocks: This is an easy one to sip neat since it’s only 80 proof. Adding water takes away too much of the spice and renders it too mild or bland. However, pouring over ice and drinking it on a hot day is a nice way to enjoy it. Just don’t let it sit for too long and get watered down to the point where its signature spicy notes are killed off.
Share With: This is a Bourbon that you can really share with anyone. From Bourbon novices to more experience Bourbon drinkers, Basil Hayden’s has a lot to offer albeit on the ligher end of the proof spectrum. I think it’s especially good on a hot summer day on the rocks.
Worth The Price: At an average retail price of $40-45 it’s a little more expensive than it should be in my opinion but I wouldn’t let that deter you from keeping a bottle or two on hand at all times.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: This is definitely a bottle that you should keep on your bar at all times. In fact, since it’s not very expensive you might actually want to keep a few bottles on hand “just in case”. Basil Hayden’s makes a great gift for Bourbon lovers who appreciate a spicier, rye-heavy whiskey as well as for folks just getting started on their Bourbon journey. If anyone ever complains about receiving a bottle you can be certain that they have no taste at all.
*I like to let my bourbon sit in the glass for at least 5 minutes before I start to smell it or have a drink. I personally find that it’s better to let some of the alcohol waft off before diving in. If I’m drinking bourbon on the rocks I skip the waiting and dive in both feet first.
**Some of you refer to this as the “finish” but let’s be honest. Don’t we all just want to know if it burns good?
PS – A Basil Hayden’s Bourbon review wouldn’t be completed if I didn’t address the fact that I often hear folks arguing about the proper pronunciation of Basil Hayden’s. To shed some light on the issue I’ll leave you with what Bernie Lubbers shared with us at dinner during last year’s Bourbon & Banter Pilgrimage.
The story goes that Bernie was talking to a friend from the UK (if my memory serves me right) and Bernie asked him how he would pronounce the name Basil Hayden. His friend answered by letting him know that /ˈbāzəl/ is a herb, while /ˈbæzəl/ is a person’s name. And since no one would ever want to named after a herb, the proper pronunciation must be /ˈbæzəl/.
Make sense to me. Just remember that the folks at your favorite liquor store probably aren’t going to have any idea what you mean if you use the proper pronunciation. Be prepared for some blank looks and possible verbal harassment.