Posts tagged ‘Basil Hayden’s’

Four Roses Small Batch Review

At the recommendation of a good bourbon companion of mine, I picked up a bottle of Four Roses Small Batch the other day.  As it turns out, it was the perfect time to do so.  Like its little brother, Four Roses Yellow Label, the small batch bourbon from Four Roses is a perfect bourbon for warm summer nights.  Four Roses Distillery uses ten different recipes for their bourbons, which makes it one of the most diverse bourbon distilleries around.  Four Roses Small Batch is a batching of four of these different recipes with various ages, and there is no age statement on the bottle.  It is bottled at 90 proof, but it drinks just as smooth as its 80 proof little brother.

On the nose, Four Roses is light, spicy, floral, and fruity.  It reminds a little of a Lowland Scotch.  There are notes of lemon and orange peels, cinnamon, ginger, some nutmeg, and some rye spiciness.  The palate is a very solid blend of sweet and spicy flavors.  Four Roses Small Batch has a silky texture to it, backed up by the combination of berries and citrus fruits with rye peppiness.  The finish is long and well-executed, with some rye kick followed up by oranges, sour apples, honey, and caramel.

Truthfully, Four Roses Small Batch surprised me.  It is unlike any other bourbon I have had in that it is very light and floral throughout.  However, it still has enough kick to drink like a bourbon.  My only complaint is that it can be a little rough around the edges, especially when the rye presents itself in the finish.  I think the quality of Four Roses Small Batch is something that Basil Hayden’s could achieve if it were bottled at slightly higher proof.  This is definitely a very good bourbon, especially on a warm night.  My grade: B/B-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is a unique whiskey, that makes a great standard pour, especially if you are looking to introduce Scotch drinkers to bourbon.

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Bourbons for Beginners

Since I’ve been blogging about bourbon, several people have asked a very good question, “What bourbons should I try if I have never had bourbon before?”  Obviously, part of the answer to this question depends on what you normally drink; I would not recommend certain bourbons to folks who usually drink wine, whereas other bourbons definitely cater to wine drinkers.  Of course, like any beverage, the bottom line is whether or not your senses enjoy the whiskey.  With that caveat in mind, here are my suggestions for entry-level bourbons.

Bourbons to start with under $20:  Four Roses Yellow Label, Old Forester, Evan Williams Black Label, Jim Beam White Label.  Chief among this list is Four Roses, because of its great combination of drinkability, flavor profile, and value.

Bourbons to start with between $20-$30:  Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig 12 year, Wild Turkey 81.  Out of this group, Buffalo Trace is probably the best demonstration of a medium-bodied, well-balanced craft bourbon.  Elijah Craig is a solid bourbon to start with if you are looking for an older, more oaky bourbon.  Wild Turkey is a good start to bourbon if you want to try a bold and spicy flavor profile.

Bourbons to start with over $30:  Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden’s, Four Roses Small Batch, Blanton’s Original Single Barrel.  All four of these bourbons are very good and very drinkable.  Basil Hayden’s is very light-bodied for a craft bourbon, which makes it a great craft bourbon to start with.  If you are seeking a bourbon with a little more body, look no further than Woodford Reserve.  Be careful, though; a bottle of Woodford Reserve could very well make a bourbon enthusiast out of you.

Overall, I usually recommend that people try lower proof bourbons to begin their bourbon journey, because lower proof bourbons tend to be more drinkable.  As you drink a few bourbons and learn to appreciate the whiskey a little more, then you can start to branch out and try all sorts of great bourbon whiskeys.

 

Woodford Reserve Review

Today, I am reviewing one of the most popular craft bourbons on the market, Woodford Reserve.  It is a 94 proof whiskey from the Labrot & Graham Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, and a favorite of many.  Like several bourbons I’ve reviewed recently (Basil Hayden’s, Wild Turkey 101, and Fighting Cock), Woodford Reserve uses a higher percentage of rye in the mash bill.  However, the rye is very well balanced, making up about 18% of the recipe.  This gives the bourbon the light flavors of a rye whiskey, without the intensity of the rye spices found in bourbons like Turkey 101.

On the nose, Woodford Reserve is rich with the flavors of a candy shop in the Old West.  There are pronounced flavors of butterscotch and toffee, with some balancing rye spice and cinnamon.  There is also some fruity sweetness (caramel-dipped apples) that shows up.  The palate follows up the nose well with rich butterscotch, some toffee and caramel, and some vanilla.  Woodford Reserve has a silky, buttery feel to it on the palate, letting the flavors roam freely about the mouth.  This whiskey finishes with great balance.  The butterscotch sweetness does not leave, but it is backed up by the zest that one would expect from a bourbon with a higher rye content.  The heat from the rye spice and the smooth sweetness of the butterscotch are in perfect balance in the finish.

From start to finish, Woodford Reserve is a fantastic bourbon.  It is not always in my price range, but that does not mean it isn’t a good value buy.  My grade: B.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  This is a damn good everyday whiskey, but it falls short of my special occasion pour (but that doesn’t mean it can’t be drank on special occasions).

Basil Hayden’s Review

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.