Upon a trip to Lincoln to indulge in a Chap Hop masterclass I discovered their fantastic Whisky Shop and consequently the gloriously named Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. I saw it on the shelf and had to buy it due to its crazy bottle and vaguely silly name.
Where did this crazy name come from? It doesn’t sound very American… Well Basil Hayden was a distiller in the 16th century who used more rye in his mash than other distillers. His grandson used this formula to release a bourbon called Old Granddad in honour of his ancestor. Basil Hayden’s is loosely based upon this old classic and is presently produced in small batches by the Beam Suntory distillery. An interesting quirk of this bourbon is that it is distilled in Illinois not Kentucky, like most other Bourbons.
Let’s start our look at this fine drink with a closer inspection of the bottle. It comes in the basic Eagle Rare shaped bottle with an old fashioned looking label. On top of this label, encircling the bottle is a ring of metal that features a metal B and H riveted to the front. This was eye-catching enough to get me to try it over many other bourbons in the shop.
Time to crack it open and find out if the drink lives up to the label. The first thing I noticed is it’s a much lighter bourbon than I am used to. I mean this in both colour and taste. The aromas bring to mind a dark fruit bread with a whiff of menthol. Like a Christmas themed cold remedy.
It isn’t as treacly as most of my favourite bourbons but still has a sweet undercurrent, almost honey-like, akin to bee tears. Despite its light nature there is a full body to it and a very peppery nose. Whilst lacking perhaps the character of Colonel E H Taylor’s, it can still hold its own against most small batch bourbons I have ever tried.
At this price point I was quite impressed, it was tastier than the similarly priced Blanton’s Special Reserve and really looks the part on my shelf of whiskies (or the wonder shelf as I call it). It is not the easiest to find but at £37 from the whisky exchange it is very much worth a try. Find out what everyone in 1796 America was talking about. 4/5