Basil Hayden’s Straight Kentucky Bourbon
Whiskey Review: Basil Hayden’s Straight Kentucky Bourbon 90/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (AKA Arctic Wolf)
Posted on January 5, 2011
This review is based upon a small sample provided to me from the personal collection of J. L. Wheelock, who is part of the Beam Global team here in Alberta. The sample was smaller than my normal 200 ml minimum sample size, and the reader should be cautioned that I was not able to give the sample my normal rigorous tasting regimen of five independent tasting sessions. Instead I completed two tasting sessions of the sample and did no cocktail explorations.
Basil Hayden’s is part of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection. This collection is composed of Knob Creek, Booker’s, Basil Hayden’s, and Baker’s, and is considered by Jim Beam Distillers to be a selection of ‘ultra-premium’ bourbon whiskeys. This selection of bourbon whiskeys was created to establish a high-end category for bourbon, and thus to appeal to the serious whiskey aficionado.
Basil Hayden’s is unique in that it is produced from a distilling mash which has an especially high rye content, twice as much rye in fact as would normally be used in a Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey. The Basil Hayden’s is aged in American white oak for 8 years, and then bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
Although I was not given a full bottle of Basil Hayden’s for review, I did manage to find a nice photo of the bottle on the Jim Beam Website. Permission to use this photo was provided by the above mentioned J. L. Wheelock.
As you can see the presentation is attractive. I like the innovative label design and admit that I am intrigued enough that I may seek out this bottle for my own collecting purposes.
In the Glass 9/10
The Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Whisky has the colour of light golden straw, and the initial nose represents a lighter style of bourbon than I am used to. The strong aroma of freshly fallen timbers which I always find in bourbon is muted as if a light rain has fallen to dampen the effect. A distinct, but mellow note of honeycomb rises from the glass giving the bourbon a light candied flair, and deeper down a gentle and mildly spicy caramel toffee springs up and greets me as well.
In the Mouth 54/60
My oh my…. this is a gentle bourbon that caresses the mouth with honeycomb cereal, vanilla and mild toffee on the entry. Spicier tannins from the oak build and gather strength in the mouth but they never reach a point where they overwhelm the other flavours.
At the mid-palate I taste the rye in the mash and a sweet corn which seems to be gathering a little strength. I like the balance I taste between these flavours, and I like that there is enough complexity to keep me wanting to return for another sip. This is silky sublime stuff.
In the Throat 13.5/15
At the exit, the oak timbers re-gather themselves into a nice, but somewhat mild, rush of oak and baking spice that tastes great. Indistinct trails of sweet honey, vanilla, corn and rye are left in my throat, and I wish I my sample had been larger so that I could repeat this all over again.
The Afterburn 9/10
I have a feeling that persons who like an assertive, robust flavour profile in their bourbon are going to be disappointed with this one. Basil Hayden’s has a milder, more gentle bourbon profile. Your mouth and throat do not get all clogged up with oak timbers, and if that is what you drink bourbon for, then you will find Basil Hayden’s to be thin and uninviting. But, if you are more like myself, and want to taste the other nuances of sweet corn, rye, vanilla, and honeycomb, and to relish them as they play in and out of those oak timbers, then this bourbon will delight you. It delighted me!
You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)