Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

Class:  Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Basil Hayden's Bourbon is part of the Jim Beam "small batch" bourbon line, which also includes Knob Creek, Baker's, and Booker's.  The brand was launched by Beam in 1992 to commemorate Meredith Basil Hayden Sr, a historical figure whose family name is tied to the creation of the Old Granddad line of bourbons, as well as the once operational but now defunct Old Granddad Distillery.

According to, well, whoever gets to write bourbon history, Basil Hayden used a higher proportion of rye grain in his bourbon mash than his late 18th century contemporaries.  To keep in step with this tradition, Beam-Suntory distills Basil Hayden's and Old Granddad bourbons from a custom high-rye mash bill.

Unlike the other bourbons in the small batch series which are bottled at higher than normal proofs (Knob creek at 100 proof, Baker's at 107, and Booker's at undiluted barrel proof), Basil Hayden's targets a different audience at the legal minimum 80 proof.  Note that this also makes it a lower proof than two of its mash bill sharing Old Granddad bourbon brethren (the Bottled in Bond at 100 proof and the 114 at, who would'a guessed, 114 proof).  In Beam-Suntory's own advertising words, this bourbon is "artfully aged, light and easy to sip, with a clean finish." (quoted from  Note that while this bourbon once contained an 8 year age statement, the age statement was recently removed from the label.

The first time I tried this whiskey, I was at my uncle’s house for a family reunion. Several of us gathered around in the back yard, grabbed some glencairn glasses, and kicked back to try a few whiskies. I was fairly new to whiskey tasting at that point, so to me it was just mellow and smooth. Revisiting it some time later, and with a lot more whiskies under my belt, I will admit that it’s one of my least favorite bourbons that I’ve had up to this point. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it, but there’s also nothing great or memorable about it. That said, tastes vary from person to person and my taste does tend toward more bold flavors and intense whiskies. Without further ado:


  • Distilled, aged, and bottled by Jim Beam (Beam-Suntory) in Clermont, KY
  • Mash bill of 63% corn, 27% rye, 10% malted barley
  • No Age Statement
  • Bottled at 40% ABV (80 proof)

Nose: Some spiciness, brewed tea, peppermint, some apple sweetness, and wood varnish

 Palate: Watery. Some corn and caramel sweetness followed by some spice toward the middle. Some oak tannins appears in the back.

 Finish: Quick, soft, and forgettable with jumbled notes of apple, mint, and oak.  The finish is somewhat off putting, but luckily it fades quickly.

Score:  30/100

Buying Recommendation:  Don't spend your money on it.  For some folks, this may be their cup of tea...considering the low strength and weird tea/peppermint notes, it wouldn't be a bad substitute for an actual cup of tea!  For me however, I regret ever buying a bottle.  Generally speaking, even bottles I don't enjoy sipping that much still find a place on my shelf as mixers or guest pours, but not this one.  Each time I've sipped it, I like it less and less.  The proof isn't the whole problem, as I have had plenty of other whiskeys at 80 proof which have far more character and consistent flavor.  Save yourself the $35-40 and buy something else!

The Rating Scale

At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92).  This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys.  Here is how the scale breaks down:

1-49:  Varying degrees of bad

55:  Average

60-69:  Better than average

70-79:  solid/good

80-89:  excellent

90+:  truly exceptional

All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.

Written Review Specialist

All Time Favorite Whisky: Talisker 18 Year

Daily Drinkers: Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Talisker Storm

Blake is a filmmaker and storyteller whose appreciation for whiskey began on his 21st birthday when his friends introduced him to the Old Fashioned cocktail. Shortly after this, Blake began experimenting to create his own version of the classic drink, and purchased a small bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon. Over the last few years, Blake’s whiskey collection has expanded along with his knowledge and enjoyment of whiskies. Originally a bourbon guy, Blake got into rye whiskey through Whistlepig 10 year, and later got into single malt scotch via Lagavulin 16 year and Talisker 10 year.

With interests in theology, philosophy, history, and many sciences, Blake thoroughly enjoys learning the history and process behind whiskey, and continues to insist that while sipping whiskey, one is sipping history, culture, geography, chemistry, and a host of other disciplines. Blake is also an avid hiker, alpine skier, kayaker, and cyclist; he also enjoys sailing on occasion.

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