Basil Hayden Is the Super-Premium Bourbon for Your Evening Nightcap

This article is part of a series, Stories of Bourbon, sponsored by James B. Beam Distilling Co. Discover more about bourbon here!

September brings the start of a new season, and with it comes all the joys of autumn — from the crisp, cool air to to fireside hangs. Another amazing feature of September is that it’s officially National Bourbon Heritage Month! In 2007, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution acknowledging this month for celebrating “America’s native spirit.” Not that we need a month solely dedicated to bourbon (it’s always the right time for this blissful beverage), but it sure feels extra special when sipping on quality, high-rye bourbon like Basil Hayden.

Produced in 1992 by legendary Kentucky master distiller Booker Noe as part of Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection, Basil Hayden® was introduced as a complex yet subtle spirit that would stand out among other bourbons. As an homage to a historical recipe, Booker chose to model his bourbon with a higher percentage of rye to create a spicy bourbon, but one that packs less of a potent punch than others. To this end, Basil Hayden comes in at a lower 80 proof than most bourbons, which tend to dial in between 90 and 100.

Basil Hayden was initially rolled out in 1992 as part of a Beam ultra-premium product line extension, one of the very firsts of its kind, called the Small Batch Bourbon Collection. This collection — which also included Booker’s Bourbon, Baker’s, and Knob Creek — was the vision of Booker Noe’s friend, mentee, and colleague Kathleen DiBenedetto. She started her career at Beam in 1991 as the company’s first-ever brand manager before taking on the role of apprentice, with Booker as her mentor. Today, she operates as the Senior Director of Premium+ and On-Premise Marketing for Beam Suntory. DiBenedetto’s work continues to be impactful well beyond the innovative small batch program that includes Basil Hayden.

The bourbon is made in small batches and is aged for a minimum of six years in charred American white oak barrels. Even at its lower proof, Basil Hayden has a distinguishing rye-forward flavor profile that allows it to stand out in spirit-forward cocktails such as a classic Old Fashioned or Boulevardier. For those of us who prefer our bourbon neat, Basil Hayden makes an ideal treat or evening nightcap.

The bourbon draws you in with its beautiful, vivid amber hue before you catch a whiff of its subtle aroma of warm brown sugar and oak. The flavorful pour crescendos upon the first sip, catching delicious, rich caramel and toasted oak notes with a creamy mouthfeel. Though not prolonged, the finish has a dash of peppery spice (thanks to the high rye) mid-palate before fading away. Revisiting the glass — and after nosing it once more — a dash of vanilla bean shines through. Like the mood you get after listening to the end of a great song, you’re left feeling content and appreciative of the overall tasting experience.

The bourbon is made in small batches and is aged for a minimum of 6 years in charred American white oak barrels
The bourbon is made in small batches and is aged for a minimum of six years in charred American white oak barrels.

If you’re a sucker for design, that is even more reason to snag a bottle of Basil Hayden. It’s easily identifiable and looks exquisite on your bar cart, making it ideal for photo shoots (trust us, we tried it). Moreover, you’ll be able to enjoy the quality bottle and equally exceptional bourbon for a reasonable price, retailing at around $40. Each fall, Basil Hayden releases an exclusive 10-year bourbon that’s at the same 80 proof as the original, but boasts more complexity and a smokier flavor profile, with hints of char.

Coined as “artfully aged,” Basil Hayden is as masterfully crafted today as it was 200 years ago. Whether you are a big-time bourbon buff or new to the world of bourbon, this high-rye, low-proof, super-premium bourbon is a top-notch selection for your nightcap. We’ve included three mouthwatering Basil Hayden based cocktail recipes for you to try, below.

Kentucky Mulled Cider


  • 1¼ ounces Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • Hot apple cider to top
  • Dash of allspice
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Lemon slice


Add bourbon to a mug. Fill the mug with hot apple cider and a dash of allspice. Garnish with a tall cinnamon stick and lemon slice.

Basil Hayden Boulevardier


  • 1 part Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • ¾ part Aperol Aperitif
  • ¾ part Dolin Rouge Sweet Vermouth
  • Orange peel


Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until cold. Strain liquid into a coupe and serve up or in a rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with an orange peel.

Basil Hayden’s Golden Hour


  • 1 part Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • ¾ part Lillet Blanc
  • ¾ part Aperol Aperitif
  • Grapefruit peel


Combine ingredients over ice in a mixing glass. Stir thoroughly. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a grapefruit peel.

This article is sponsored by James B. Beam Distilling Co. ©2021 Beam Suntory Inc. Chicago, IL