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 basilhaydens.com). 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.
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
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
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