Odds are, when asked to name a bourbon, the first brand to come to most Americans’ minds will be Jim Beam, and for good reason. The company is famous for having produced some of America’s most famous and reputable lines of bourbons.
A strong argument could be made for Basil Hayden as Jim Beam’s most beloved and revered brands within its family of spirits.
Hailing from the famed home of American bourbon in Clermont, Kentucky, Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a staple choice among many bourbon fans worldwide.
The spirit’s famous spicy rye and elegant sweet flavors have garnered a passionate following of devotees to the brand. If you have not yet had the pleasure of indulging in this masterpiece of American spirits, we encourage you to read on.
The History of Basil Hayden Bourbon
As with most vintage American bourbons, Basil Hayden has a rich past, rooted in family traditions and unique recipes. While the brand was formally created and offered to the public in 1992, it has existed as a bourbon recipe since 1792.
In keeping with the brand’s tradition, Jim Beam elected to retain the bourbon’s original Basil Hayden name upon the company’s acquisition of the rights to the recipe to honor the bourbon’s original distiller, Meredith Basil Hayden Sr.
The bourbon initially distinguished itself from other Kentucky bourbons when Hayden Sr. decided to use a larger percentage of rye in the whiskey’s mash bill. While not terribly unique by today’s standards, this was unheard of during the late 1700s in the whiskey production world.
As with many of America’s most famed whiskeys, Basil Hayden is distilled and bottled in Kentucky. While some other whiskey bourbons are made outside of Kentucky, any self-respecting bourbon aficionado knows that only Kentucky whiskeys are held in the highest of regards.
Kentucky is rich with history and tradition involving the whiskey bourbon distillation process. Most of the industry’s master distillers owe their command of the whiskey creation art to having grown up in the Kentucky valley’s concentrated areas.
Basil Hayden is a proud member of the Jim Beam family of spirits and has received special attention from the parent company for many years, making the brand a flagship bourbon offering.
While owned by Jim Beam, Basil Hayden’s production has been entrusted by the parent company to Beam Suntory, a subsidiary of Suntory Holdings. When asked why the small-batch bourbon production was decided to be outsourced, Jim Beam stated that their facilities are most geared to larger, more mass production styles of bourbon distillation and less capable of providing the specific attention required to produce exceptional small-batch bourbons.
Distilled in Clermont, Kentucky, Basil Hayden’s production process is meticulously overseen by the Beam Suntory’s most trusted master distillers and goes through an extensive quality control process to ensure continuity of taste and quality across all batches.
Basil Hayden actually classifies it as a dark rye bourbon, and the common opinion is that the bourbon is most well enjoyed in an Old Fashioned. Old Fashioned’s are an excellent traditional recipe that benefits greatly from Basil Hayden’s use, as the bourbon is sweet and smooth, with hints of charred oak that pair nicely with the other traditional ingredients of an Old Fashioned.
What Bourbons Are Similar to Basil Hayden?
When considering other types of bourbons with the same profile as Basil Hayden, we encourage you to consider the following options: Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, Four Roses, George T. Stagg, Old Forester, Old Grand-Dad, and Woodford Reserve.
Each of these bourbons has an excellent flavor profile that falls within the same niche as Basil Hayden, with only small variations in tasting the experience.
Basil Hayden’s recipe follows many traditions of the bourbon distillation recipe, with only minor alterations. The bourbon mash comprises 63% Corn, 27% Rye, and 10% Malted Barley. Historically, the brand carried a public aging guarantee time of 8 years. However, in recent years, that age guarantee has been removed and replaced with a more general statement of the bourbon being “artfully aged.”
Basil Hayden bourbon carries an 80 proof rating and is carefully aged in brand new American Oak barrels, with significant levels of char.