Sunday, July 17, 2011

Basil Hayden’s Whiskey Review:

“The loudest one in the room is the weakest one in the room.” 
– Denzel Washington in American Gangster

For the very reason we can be hardest on those we love, invariably the more one does whiskey tastings the more issues one can pick out. Basil Hayden’s is one whiskey I seem to have a love/hate relationship with. Along with Booker's, Baker's, and Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s is part of Jim Beam's Small Batch Collection. It is bottled at 80 proof, lower than the other three in the collection and Jim beam, trying to stay true to the name the whiskey holds, has prepared this whiskey with a very rye heavy mash bill. This would make sense since it was Basil Hayden ("Old Grand-Dad" himself) who, back in Kentucky via Maryland in 1785, was recognized as using larger quantities of rye in his mash bill, at the time not a common practice for most Kentucky distillers. With as much as twice the rye content in the grain recipe as the other three in the Beam collection, Basil Hayden holds a quality which borders on taste as a complete rye whiskey.

Basil Hayden’s Whiskey Review:

Price: Around 39.95 for a 750ml bottle.

Packaging/Labeling:  I have to say Basil Hayden's has one of the most ridiculous labels I have ever seen. If any of you know a better one I would like to know. If I had judged the whiskey by its cover I would have made much harsher judgements of its content. A hint to the people upstairs: present your products with clear and practical packaging. Beyond that I don't know what else to say.

Alcohol Content: 40% alcohol by volume, 80 proof.

Color: Fair yellowish and golden tone. 

Nose: Characters of mint leaves which haven’t been picked. And fresh honeycomb. Fresh citrus peel, but not limes or lemons, think oranges and tangerines. The rye comes on strong above the corn. Hint of vanilla and maple syrup. The nose overall is very clean and crisp which is a distinct characteristic of a rye whiskey.

Tasting: The front is cool, clean and crisp. Honey mint and vanilla. I think of candy orange slices and jalabi, a sweet Persian dessert. Finish takes a sharp plummet and dries out suddenly – less complex than I remember from last tasting it – but this is due to it being such a tight and clean beverage.

Conclusion: Basil Hayden’s appears to be the loudest one in the room, dressed up for a party, but lacking enough substance to entertain all night. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a good bourbon, yet when the story ends, it is still bottled at 80 proof and it still cost 40 dollars. Give it 2.5 percent more abv, knock down the price to 30 dollars, and exchange the ridiculous roman dress and belt for a real label, and this whiskey would be great. Being bottled at higher proof would lift up the heat and character, giving it more complexity and flavor. Though it is a little diluted, the style itself is light and it needs to stay that way to keep its uniqueness, but Jim Beam should test the waters (literally?) a bit more rather than playing it safe at 80 proof and trying to make it look like it has a lot going on inside. Either way, you won’t be surprised to find this on my shelf again, just not any time soon.

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