The crazy paper-and-metal-holding-ring label system doesn’t make Basil Hayden’s taste any better, but God I love a nice conversation piece. The thing looks like it belongs in an Old West saloon, but Basil Hayden is a far cry from rotgut firewater. This is classy whiskey, pure and simple.
Basil Hayden’s is famous for being “lighter” in style (though just 80 proof, it’s still in barrels for eight years), and that’s obvious from the first sip. It’s easily drinkable straight, but improves a bit with a splash of water. That’s a difficult trick, actually, because Basil Hayden’s is one of the best widely-available bourbons on the market, if not the best mainstream brand you can buy at any liquor store around.
Where to begin? Start with the smoothness. Hayden goes down gently, immediately filling your mouth with its sweet honey, vanilla, and gentle smoke character. There’s an interesting mintiness, too — don’t worry, you’ll pick up on it on your second glass.
It’s also got a spicy kick, courtesy of a little rye in the mash,. That sounds like a stunt, but everything works together perfectly in the spirit. From the aroma in the glass to the smooth and layered finish, which lifts away all of Basil’s characters one by one, finishing with that silky smoke sensation, this is a bourbon that sets the bar for everything else.