Basil Hayden Bourbon Review

Basil Hayden Bourbon Review

Our verdict

Basil Hayden Bourbon is the lightest-bodied bourbon in the family of Jim Beam small batch bourbons produced by Beam Suntory. This whiskey was created to include everyone in the whiskey category.

Overall rating

The longer review

Wherever you go, you’ll most probably hear people argue about the proper pronunciation of Basil Hayden Bourbon. Most people argue that it’s pronounced as /ˈbæzəl/ the person’s name and not /ˈbāzəl/ the herb. Again, it also depends if you’re American or English, in which case you’d pronounce it as “bay-zle” and “baa-zle,” respectively.

Basil Hayden Bourbon History

This bourbon brand is named in honor of Meredith Basil Hayden Sr. , a whiskey pioneer and rye farmer who was a Maryland Catholic in the 18th century. The family had lived there since 1678 when Francis Hayden, Meredith’s great-grandfather, moved from Virginia to Maryland. His family can be traced back to England, Norfolk, before Britain became inhospitable to Catholics. In 1785, Meredith led twenty-five Catholic families from Maryland into what is not Nelson County, Kentucky.

The Hayden family started distilling in Kentucky in 1840, led by Meredith as the owner and master distiller. All through the mid-1800s, their approach to whiskey production using abnormally high amounts of rye in the mash bill gained popularity, enabling them to build a successful business. Later in 1882, Hayden’s grandson Raymond B. Hayden founded a distillery in Nelson County and named his label “Old Grand-Dad” in honor of his grandfather. Seventeen, years later this label was sold.

Basil Hayden Bourbon was crafted in 1992 by master distiller Booker Noe. It has proved successful and remains a popular sub-brand from Jim Beam.

Where is Basil Hayden Bourbon made?

Every drop of Basil Hayden Bourbon is distilled in Clermont, Kentucky, right in the heart of bourbon country. The whiskey is carefully distilled at Kentucky Springs Distilling Co.

Visitors can take a tour around the distillery to learn all the history, timeless secrets, and traditions of Kentucky’s signature spirit.

basil hayden bourbon on glasses

How is Basil Hayden Bourbon made?

Basil Hayden Bourbon is adored for its cinnamon, rye, sweet, and caramel flavor notes. This liquor has a higher-than-average rye content which is responsible for its distinct spiciness. The aging process also imparts the liquor with its trademark spicy-sweet flavors.

In 1796 Master Distiller Basil broke the rules by mixing small grains into the mash of a traditional corn base. He believed that the spicy flavor of rye would be a striking complement to the sweet smoothness of corn in his distillery’s standard bourbon. He was right – the recipe was a masterpiece, resulting in a unique, singular small batch bourbon whiskey that was blessed with rich hints of peppermint, notes of pepper, slight, citrus overtones, and a warming spicy finish.

Basil Hayden Bourbon Whiskey variations

Basil Hayden Bourbon is made in small batches and aged for around 8years in charred American white oak barrels. It’s one of the bourbons that make up Beam’s Small Batch Collection. The others are:

  • Baker’s – This bourbon is sweet and smooth with a cognac-like flavor and seems designed for a much mellow palette. It has less of a punch compared to the other two on this list.
  • Knob Creek – This has an amazingly long and strong finish. It’s aged longer than the others to allow it more time to absorb the sugar from the oak barrels
  • Bookers – This is Kentucky’s Spring Distilling masterpiece. It’s rough around the edges but still smooth. Part of this is that the bourbon is both uncut and unfiltered.

Basil Hayden Bourbon is not boozy, unlike its hardcore kin, coming in at 80 proof, for all of the taste and less of the burn.

Basil Hayden Bourbon announced the release of Basil Hayden’s 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey. This release builds on the brand’s continued success and was created to showcase the bourbon’s signature high rye recipe in an extra-aged whiskey. This special bourbon boasts a smokier, more complex flavor profile than the original and only comes around once a year.

basil hayden bourbon and ice on glass

Tasting notes.

What to expect

This is a very balanced and flavorful Jim Beam offering that has all the wonderful elements of a wonderful bourbon. People, especially those trying rye for the first time, can’t seem to get over how charming and fresh Basil Hayden Bourbon is.

1. Smell

There’s something tame about the aromas coming from this whiskey. The smell is vanilla oakiness, gentle cinnamon, and sweet caramel with a touch of light fruit.

2. Color

The gold color both inside the bottle and outside is surprisingly pleasant to look at.

3. Taste

The flavors are intensely approachable, unique, and confident with a certain freshness. You can taste wonderful rye notes, spicy oak notes, and hints of caramel. There’s a lingering spearmint taste that’s not all that deep but refreshing.

basil hayden bourbon and cherry on glass

How to drink Basil Hayden Bourbon

This is a bourbon that you can share with anyone from bourbon novices to more experienced bourbon drinkers. As soon as you pour yourself a glass of Basil Hayden Bourbon, its fragrant and sweet scent will call on you to take a sip already.

1. Neat

This bourbon is an easy one to sip neat since it’s only 80 proof. When you add water, you take away so much from the spices, which renders the whiskey too mild or bland.

Overall, the bourbon is a sweet, light, and delicious experience without any bitterness.

2. On ice

Although the bourbon is ideally served neat, pouring it over ice is a great way to enjoy it on a hot day.

Remember not to let your drink sit for too long as it’ll get watered down to the point where its signature spicy notes are killed off.

3. With water

The lighter flavors drop out with a few drops of water, but the bolder flavors come back stronger. The burn is minimal when you take it with water with a bit of faint caramel at the end.

4. Cocktail

Add a dash of any juice of your option, and you’ll end up with a pretty good cocktail. When mixing the bourbon to make a cocktail, ensure that everything balances out well.

Thanks to the vanilla and spice tones, most Basil Hayden Bourbon cocktails are bold and memorable.

basil hayden bourbon and lemon

The Whiskey Rocks verdict.

Is it good?

Basil Hayden Bourbon isn’t the best bourbon you’ll ever try, but still, it’s pretty good. If you’re looking for a bourbon to share with your friends and loved ones, and something that doesn’t break the bank, then Basil Hayden Bourbon is your go-to whiskey.

This under-rated gem is for you if you enjoy spicier bourbons with a rich cascade of aromas and flavors. On the contrary, Basil Hayden Bourbon isn’t for you if you’re looking for a drink with a higher proof.

Ashleigh Cain

Ashleigh is a key part of the editorial team at Whiskey Rocks. You'll often find her either writing educational articles or reviewing the latest artisan whiskeys. Her favorite drink? Ashleigh loves smokey scotches like Laphroaig, but you'll also often find her with an old fashioned in hand.

Pepperjam Verification

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