In 2018, Basil Hayden’s dropped its first 10 year old version of its classic bourbon. Since then the bottling has become an annual affair, dropping in the later months of each year. Recently we received a sample of the 2020 release of Basil Hayden’s Bourbon 10 Years Old, the third release of this whiskey from the brand.
Note that these releases to not carry vintage information on the label. You’ll probably have to dig into the arcana of the bottle code, printed in tiny type on the back, if you want to figure out when the whiskey was produced. And no, I don’t know how to translate “L9343CLA 333800734” into a production date.
As for this 2020 bottling, it’s immediately curious, engaging, and promising on the nose, starting off with notes of licorice and cloves before skipping to a strong cherry note after a bit of time in glass. It’s got a slight medicinal, Sucrets-like quality to it, but otherwise it’s bold and appealing. It’s so strange then that the palate takes an instantaneous turn southward. Surprisingly flat, its aromatic fruit is dulled significantly on the tongue, showing instead a body that’s more akin to weak tea than anything else, though some cinnamon and oak influence the finish, giving it a mildly spicy kick. The finish on this bottling hit me as decidedly short, with the spice and barrel notes quickly fading away into nothing. It’s quite a letdown.
After sticking my nose in the glass, I really wanted to like this whiskey — and 2018’s release was not bad at all — but for whatever reason, this 2020 release just doesn’t have much going on.