Review: Basil Hayden’s Bourbon

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.

A / $40 /

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8 Responses

  1. Joe Cogs November 24, 2009 / 6:50 pm

    Besting any Tn. whiskey at it’s own game is this sly rye bourbon. It’s far and away the bottle of choice when my wife pulls a drink from the liquer shelf, not the fine scotch, not the wines, she goes for the bourbon. It’s good alone, it’s good with gingerale…it’s really good. It gets criticized as being weak or unagressive in flavor but in doing so wins over those who like a drink that really IS smooth going in and down. It’s worth a drink if you’re convinced there’s no such thing as a smooth drink.

  2. Eric May 2, 2011 / 4:33 pm

    Bullseye, Joe. This stuff is smooth as silk, and as long as you know that going in, it can’t be a bad thing.

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  4. Alkoblog January 16, 2015 / 5:12 am

    The Basil Haydens is indeed a smooth and soft bourbon. I tasted it some days ago but have to say that it didnt impress me. The taste lacks a flavour profile that really kicks…

  5. liam June 27, 2015 / 9:57 pm

    I’d love for you to review this again.
    I’ve tried this twice now (once in a restaurant, and just now after purchasing a bottle) and yes, it’s “smooth”, has some definite honey characteristics but also an undeniable funk, to my palate.
    The funk/mustiness is reminiscent of corn chowder that’s been sitting in a warm damp room for far too long.
    Jefferson’s also had this mustiness.

  6. Jack praski May 28, 2016 / 8:42 am

    Found bottle deep in mud as the Allegheny river is at its lowest in years . Twist off, brass ring reads Basil Hayden. Bottle from Canada any idea how old it could be. Thanks

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