I wanted to review this bourbon before the summer is upon us because it is definitely a summer bourbon. Basil Hayden’s is an 80 proof, 8 year old, small batch bourbon from Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection (which also includes Knob Creek). The bourbon gets its name from Basil Hayden, a native Marylander who moved his community to (what is now) Kentucky in the 18th century. He is one of the first famous distillers, and many people credit Basil Hayden with being the first person to use rye grain in whiskey. Hence, his namesake bourbon is the only bourbon in the Small Batch Collection to use a high rye content in the mash bill.
Basil Hayden’s is an interesting bourbon because it is only bottled at 80 proof, which is quite low for a craft bourbon. It is the only bourbon in Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection to be bottled at less than 100 proof. This low alcohol content makes Basil Hayden’s very light-bodied and drinkable, the perfect whiskey for a warm summer day.
On the nose, Basil Hayden’s is light, but crisp. There are peppery notes from the rye character, which is noticeable right up front. However, it is balanced well by dried fruits (mangoes, apricots) and some light floral notes. The palate is very light and smooth, with notes of vanilla, some light fruits, and a good dose of rye. The finish is very well-balanced, just like the nose. There are some notes of sweet pine nectar and dried fruits, but the rye spices are the highlight. However, the finish dies out quickly, leaving the palate stranded.
Overall, Basil Hayden’s is a very good bourbon that is balanced all the way through. However, the low proof and light body make it a soft bourbon. The flavors are all there in good balance, but not good quantity. Every time I drink this bourbon, I am left wanting more. I would love to see what would happen if this bourbon was bottled at 90 or 95 proof. That being said, Basil Hayden’s is a delightful summer bourbon, especially if it is on sale. My grade: B-. Price: $35-40/750ml. This is a good standard pour, but it doesn’t quite have the full bodied complexity to be a great whiskey for me.