Barreling Down the Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Basil Hayden’s: Take It Neat or Not at All


Basil Hayden’s is a singular bourbon that bridges the flavors of sweet small batches and spicy rye whiskey. Aged eight years at a relatively mild 80 proof, it has a broad appeal and can be equally enjoyable alone or in cocktails, but we prefer the former.

This small-batch label from the Jim Beam family of bourbon products was named after its original creator, Basil Ewing Hayden, who crafted the recipe back in 1796. After leading a group of Catholics into Kentucky in the late 1700s, Hayden built his own distillery.

The unique feature of this bourbon is its high usage of rye. Basil Hayden’s uses twice as much rye as your standard bourbon. It has a spicy aroma with strong notes of charred wood and pepper. Although there is very little sweetness that can be tasted here, you can pick up on some notes of honey.

Its rich and brilliant amber color appears to be aflame–glowing with an orange glint.


Bourbon should sipped in small quantities, savored and enjoyed, and Basil Hayden’s is incredibly approachable, yet beautifully sophisticated. The only thing we’ve ever chosen to drink neat was the occasional scotch or some fine spiced Jamaican rum. But this bottle definitely won us over. There’s absolutely no off-putting aftertaste, bite or burn, just a strong warmth that feels pleasant spreading through your chest and lingering there for a minute or two.

And, with winter upon us, this full-bodied bourbon has just enough muscle to keep you warm.

The peppery, charred, smoky flavors and smells are inviting but aren’t too strong. As for the finish, it is smooth and crisp–ensuring not to overstay its welcome. You can easily catch the distinctive vanilla and caramel scent of the charred oak barrel it was aged in.

Because of its low proof, adding ice to this premium bourbon tends to water down the product. Since it is already smooth to begin with, there is no added benefit of calming it down. We prefer to take it neat, or not at all.


It’s a very light and drinkable bourbon that pairs well with foods, as the nose is subtle and not overpowering. Mostly, it’s best paired to sip with a medium-rare sirloin steak or duck. In the mouth, the bourbon is rye-forward, but not as spicy as we were anticipating. The texture is extremely smooth, leaving behind fairly thick legs on a glass, but surprisingly does not stick to the mouth for long,an easy finish for both beginning and seasoned bourbon drinkers. It is full-bodied, yet soft and well-rounded.

Bourbon is not intended for the meek or timid drinker but it’s one spirit category every man should master. Grab a bottle, pour about three fingers in the bottom of a glass and get ready to enjoy a sip.