The march of Basil Hayden whiskey releases continues with yet another special expression, this one starting with standard Basil Hayden bourbon, then finishing it in California red wine casks. There’s no information on the finishing process (or much else) beyond that descriptor, so let’s simply dive in.
The dissonance here is immediate. The nose is sweet and fruity — some cherry and some strawberry — but undercut with an emphatic, doughy note of unbaked bread, almost yeasty. There are notes of vanilla and chocolate to be found, but they’re mild, quite tempered on the whole, as if something is keeping them in check. The palate shifts the picture, to be sure. Here that doughy character reveals its darker, woodier underbelly, and red wine tannin quickly comes flooding into the picture. Bitter and pushy, a char-heavy note clings to the back of the throat, emerging notes of grape skins and cloves forcing those elements to double down. Things get even more hoary with time in glass, the red wine elements really beginning to dominate alongside notes of torched wood, toasted sesame seeds, and cabernet jelly. Despite glimpses of chocolate, vanilla, and even some toasted coconut along the way, the whiskey remains tough and tight on the finish.
Fans of other Basil Hayden whiskeys won’t see much family resemblance here.