Review: Basil Hayden's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey / by Jason Hambrey

Basil Haydens.jpg
Charred Virgin Oak
~63% Corn, 27% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Distiller Jim Beam (Clermont, Kentucky)

This whiskey was introduced in 1992 as part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection – it was modeled after the whiskey and recipe made by Basil Hayden, a distiller in the late 1700s. The whiskey used to carry an age statement of 8 years, but is now “artfully aged”, i.e. not as old. Likewise, it used to be a “straight” bourbon - but no longer -  which means that it can be younger (unlikely to be too much younger) and coloring and flavoring can be added. This whiskey has the lowest alcohol content (40%) of any of the Jim Cream Small Batch Collection (which includes the Knob Creek line, Booker’s, and Baker’s), and is crafted to be a lighter bourbon. This bourbon is unique in that it has a higher rye content (the recipe uses about 30%), which is nearly double that of the other Jim Beam products.

Review (2015)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: 1321934A20134

  • Bottling Date: 2014

Nose: Light, citrusy and fruity aroma overall – there’s a lovely light rye influence in this one, but corn is quite present as well. The rye is quite dominant – it could perhaps fool some to be a light rye whiskey rather than a bourbon. Caramel, vanilla, custard, citrus, green apple skins, without a lot of oak for a bourbon that is close to 8 years old. It’s hot and peppery in the nose despite the low ABV and light profile. On my first tasting there was a lot of stale bitterness associated with the rye (resulting in a score of 78 initially), but that has faded to nothing as the bottle has been open a few days, and the nose, itself, is much better than that.

Taste: Light, corn and oak with a bit of a floral nature on top. A taste profile that is simple and quite easy to embrace – it is quite a bit different from the much bigger flavor profiles of the other small batch bourbons. Lightly smoky, with fruity notes in the apple and pear camp, with a soft oak integration. Fruit too – apple and pear. Ever so lightly bitter and tannic, and fairly sweet for the light body. There is a decent amount of oiliness, too, in the palate as with many of the other premium Jim Beam products- which some people quite like but isn’t quite my favorite.

Finish: A light body on the finish, with some oak, earthy corn – like what you would expect wet corn stalks to smell like after they’ve been pulled up. Slightly sour, and slightly spicy, as well. The oak wins out in the end.

This is a decent light bourbon, though at the price there are many others I’d recommend before this one at this price point. For someone just getting into bourbons, it’s perhaps good because of the very light profile which is fairly easy to embrace.

Recommended (81% of whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.