basil hayden

Basil Hayden’s Rye Whiskey Review

Last year saw the one-time Booker’s Rye variant of the Jim Beam’s Small Batch collection hit the market to high praise.  This year have Basil Hayden’s Rye.  Will it hold a candle to Booker’s Rye, or is it fair to compare?

During this year’s New Orleans Bourbon Fest, Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe told me he consulted with Laphroaig Distillery Manager John Campbell for some insight as to how they use quarter casks.  The resulting whiskey is Basil Hayden’s Rye.  According to press materials, this one-time release starts as a four-year-old rye whiskey.  There’s no mention of mashbill, but I’d guess it’s the standard Beam rye mashbill.  This four-year-old rye is re-barreled into newly charred quarter casks and is further aged seven years.  A small amount of the rebarreled rye is blended with the traditional rye to make this release.  

This is the first time I can remember quarter casks being used by one of the major American whiskey producers.  Some craft distilleries use them, and the results can be mixed.  At the same time I’m very familiar with Laphroaig Quarter Cask.  Using this type of casks usually results in a different kind of oak (and everything oak brings with it) flavor to whiskey.  Laphroaig is an example of a producer utilizing these casks for a positive influence.  What about Basil Hayden’s Rye?

The nose on the rye is both slightly youngish and oaky, but not offputting like some craft whiskies I’ve encountered.  There’s some rye spice right off the bat, along with hints of toffee, barrel char, and baking spices, with cardamon being most dominant.  The entry is a bit thin, due to the lower proof, but things pick up.  The rye spice on the nose isn’t as evident here, but it provides a touch of sharpness to the flavor, complimented by green tea.  Spiced caramel adds some sweetness, and vanilla pods add to its complexity.  Then oak tannins take over and begin drying things out for the finish, which is bittersweet and dry.  

If you’ve had the Basil Hayden’s bourbon, the new rye whiskey will be familiar. Both are bottled at 80 proof, and both should be considered “mellow.”  Basil Hayden’s Rye is less sweet, spicier, oakier, and drier than its bourbon sibling.  The quarter cask maturation really magnifies the oak and astringency, as well as a more layered vanilla note.  

I’d love to see this at a higher proof, but then it probably couldn’t be bottled under the Basil Hayden banner.  Maybe next year there’ll be a special Knob Creek Rye we can enjoy at 100 proof.  That’d be fantastic!  That said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this whiskey as is.  Like Basil Hayden, it’s approachable and designed for someone new to whiskey or someone not looking for a BIG whiskey (read: cask strength) experience.  And nicely priced to boot!  Bottles are selling for around $45.  8.5/10

Thanks to Beam Suntory for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thanksgiving Cocktail Ideas

Turkey time is almost here.  To help celebrate my favorite holiday, I thought I’d share some cocktail ideas from Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Laphroaig and Cruzan Rum.

KC_Old Fashoined Holiday

Photo courtesy Knob Creek

Knob Creek® Old Fashioned Holiday (recipe by Celebrity Chef Michael Symon)
1 1/2 Parts Knob Creek® Rye Whiskey
1/2 Part Cinnamon Syrup
1/2 Part Lemon
1 Part Wild Ale (like Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales®)
1 Egg White
Nutmeg for Garnish

Method: Combine all ingredients in a bar tin without ice. Shake for 20 seconds. Add ice and shake for another 20 seconds. Double strain into chilled lowball glass and garnish with grated nutmeg.

Cruzan® Sparkling Honey Diamond

Photo courtesy Cruzan Rum

Cruzan® Sparkling Honey Diamond


1 1/2 parts Cruzan® Estate Diamond® Dark Rum 
3/4 part Lime Juice
3/4 part Honey Syrup
Sparkling Wine 
Method: Combine rum, juice and syrup over ice and shake for 15 seconds. Fine strain into a chilled champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine.
Laphroaig_Montgomerie Smoked Cider
Laphroaig® Montgomerie Smoked Cider
1 1⁄2 parts Laphroaig® 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
3 parts apple cider
1 part fresh lemon sour

Method: Build over ice in order. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Basil Hayden's Spiced Cocoa

Photo courtesy Basil Hayden

Basil Hayden’s® Spiced Cocoa
2 parts Basil Hayden’s® Bourbon
1/4 part Nocello® Walnut Liqueur
2 parts Spicy Hot Cocoa* (see recipe below)
2 Chili Peppers (for garnish)

Method: Pre-heat mug by filling it with hot water – discard water after 30 seconds. Add Basil Hayden’s® Bourbon and Nocello® Walnut Liqueur to the heated mug. Add the spicy hot cocoa and gently mix together. Garnish with chili peppers.

Spicy Hot Cocoa*
1/2 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 Tbsp. Sugar
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
1/4 Cup Water

Method: Mix dry ingredients together, add hot water and stir until dissolved.

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Whiskey Review


Who the heck is Basil Hayden?  In a nutshell, he was a distiller in the 1700s who led several families to settle at Bardstown, KY.  He also liked a higher percentage of rye in his whiskey.  Now, let’s talk about Basil Hayden’s bourbon.  I’ve wanted to try this bottle for a long time.  Maybe the elaborate packaging got to me?   I’m a sucker for great packaging, but if the whiskey inside the bottle isn’t good then a nice label really doesn’t matter.  After all, a bottle of bourbon isn’t shelf decoration – it’s for drinking.

Before we get to the tasting notes, let’s examine this bourbon a little.  Basil Hayden’s uses Jim Beam’s high-rye mash bill.  It shares DNA with Old Grand Dad, Jim Beam Rye, and (ri)1.  A little tidbit – Basil Hayden is pictured on the bottle of Old Grand Dad. Also of note is the age statement, or lack thereof.  It’s the only member of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection that doesn’t carry an age statement.  Basil Hayden’s used to be aged 8 years.  Now, it’s “artfully aged.”  My assumption is the distillery is using younger whiskey while trying their best to keep the flavor profile of this whiskey the same.


(The distillery’s PR firm provided a review sample.)  On the nose, I get a little rye spice, some light caramel, slight oak and even a little mint.  Taste-wise it’s got a pretty light body.  Could be because of the low proof (80 proof).  Basil Hayden is not too sweet.  I get some of that rye spice and a little black pepper.  There’s also a slight bit of oak.  The best way I can describe the finish is crisp & dry.

Basil Hayden’s is James Bond’s bourbon of choice… as per Carte Blanche, a 007 novel from 2011.  If it’s good enough for James Bond, it’s good enough for me.  Seriously though – Basil Hayden is a nicely spiced, light whiskey. It’s not as complex as Four Roses Small Batch.  Maybe that’s not a fair comparison.  They are both light whiskies, but complete worlds apart in terms of flavor.  I haven’t mixed Basil Hayden in a cocktail yet, so I can’t recommend anything other than drinking it neat at the moment.  Ice and water completely drown the flavors in this one.  It’s that light.  A bottle will cost you about $40.  A little over-priced, but a nice spring-time sipper nonetheless.