The crazy paper-and-metal-holding-ring label system doesn’t make Basil Hayden’s taste any better, but it does at lease make for 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, easygoing bourbon, pure and simple.
Basil Hayden’s is famous for being “lighter” in style (though it still spends eight years in barrel), and that’s obvious from the first sip. It’s easily drinkable straight, but improves a bit with a splash of water.
Basil Hayden offers a classic vanilla-caramel nose and, as promised, it 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.
Everything works together perfectly well 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 a silky, smoky character, this is a widely available and reasonably affordable bourbon that sets a high bar at this price point.