Why You Should Always Have A Bottle Of Basil Hayden Bourbon When Entertaining

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

Going out for drinks? That’s easy. Entertaining friends at your own place is an entirely different level of difficulty. If you think you’re ready to welcome guests over for a celebratory toast or two, you’ll first need to make sure your bar is well stocked. Count how many glasses you think you’ll need and double it, unless you’re planning to have someone on dishwashing duty. Stock up on organic citrus and other fresh fruit for garnishes. And finally, pick a high-quality bourbon that can appeal to a wide array of drinkers.

You can, of course, use something like Beam Distilling’s Whiskey Finder to help you make your choice. But here’s a shortcut: Just grab a bottle of Basil Hayden. Although it’s a small-batch bourbon, it’s still relatively easy to find and probably won’t require a two-hour trip across town. It rarely suffers from crazy markup prices, meaning you can probably find it for around $40. And, more importantly, it’s a bourbon that just about everyone can love, from bourbon geeks to complete newbies.

If you’re ready to say “Cheers!” with friends, here’s why you should plan on doing so with Basil Hayden.


A big part of what hosts love about Basil Hayden is that its flavor profile appeals to a wide array of guests, from connoisseurs of American whiskeys to aficionados of elegant, lighter spirits. In terms of aroma, you’ll quickly find oak and vanilla notes on the nose, followed by caramel, hints of dried apricots, and other dried fruits. Look a bit further and you’ll discover even more complexity, with delicate aromas hinting of blackberries, aged leather, and gingery spice. It’s not as sweet smelling as a rum, but even rum lovers can certainly appreciate this spicy bouquet.

In the mouth, you’ll find slightly stronger flavors of charred oak, backed up by notes of caramel, vanilla, baking spices, and sweet brown sugar. Following those are peppercorns, cinnamon, a hint of mint, and more dried fruit. The taste is as rich and complex as a bourbon should be, though Basil Hayden fans have also hailed its lightness and sense of understatement, which can appeal to drinkers of Irish whiskies or Highland Scotch.

In the finish, it’s all Kentucky: lasting notes of charred oak and dried fruit with complex overlapping layers of aged leather, black pepper, and rich caramel.

Overall, this is a high-quality, small-batch bourbon that can appeal to a truly diverse group of drinkers.


Whiskey geeks are often keen to show off their ability to sip strong spirits without a mixer, boasting about their aversion to anything but the strongest, barrel-strength bourbons. But not every whiskey needs to be super strong, and not every drinker is happy sipping drinks with enough alcohol to fuel a jet engine. With its moderate alcohol level of 40 percent ABV (80 proof), Basil Hayden makes for an extremely approachable whiskey for any neat-spirit novices among your guests, including drinkers who are bourbon-curious, but may not be the most experienced sippers.

And it’s not just the amount of alcohol that makes Basil Hayden approachable. The refined flavor profile is similarly welcoming, offering the character of a high-quality, small-batch bourbon without any overly stark and possibly off-putting flavors like extreme barrel char or aggressive tannins.

If you want to introduce a friend to sipping bourbon neat, this is a great place to start. Grab a bottle of Basil Hayden, offer a toast, and teach your friend about nosing and sipping whiskey. Maybe after a few lessons, your friend will consider moving on and trying some “jet fuel.” Or maybe you’ll both prefer to dance with the one that brought you.


Happily, Basil Hayden is not just for nosing and sipping: This particular bourbon is a feast for the eyes as well. On any shelf you’ll find some good whiskies in ugly bottles (it happens) and a few not-great whiskies in good-looking bottles. But Basil Hayden is an absolutely excellent whiskey in a gorgeous package: wearing a gorgeous metal belt like a true champion, with the initials of its name resembling an oversize buckle, while the embossed lettering and the distinctive typography of the label add further touches of class.

That eye-popping design has led the way in the bourbon industry, inspiring the appearance of other high-end whiskies in its wake. It’s also extremely likely to catch your guests’ attention when they spot it on your bar. For a standout bottle just on its visual terms, look no further.

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