There’s no doubt you’ve heard of Jim Beam, but have you heard of its lesser-known family member Basil Hayden’s? The lightest-bodied bourbon whiskey in the Beam Suntory family still packs a lot of flavor, hitting notes of succulent peaches, orange zest, and caramel while being anchored by deeper ones like oak and black pepper. Unlike its hardcore kin, though, Basil Hayden’s is not as boozy, coming in at 80 proof, for all of the taste with less of the burn.
Pour yourself a glass of the irresistible amber liquid and read on for seven things you should know about Basil Hayden’s.
Basil Hayden’s is a ’90s kid — sort of.
The spirit was crafted in 1992 by master distiller Booker Noe, who drew inspiration for the eponymous Basil Hayden’s from Meredith Basil Hayden Sr., a whiskey pioneer and rye farmer from 18th-century Maryland. In 1796, Meredith distilled his bourbon with a higher percentage of rye, an innovation that made it taste subtler than others. The Basil Hayden’s we know today is a result of Booker Noe’s efforts to create a similar high-rye mash bill.
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You can thank Basil Hayden’s high rye content for its spicy kick.
The liquor’s distinct spiciness is attributed to its higher-than-average rye content, but its aging process also imparts Basil Hayden’s with its trademark spicy-sweet flavors. The whiskey is made in small batches and aged for around eight years in charred American white oak barrels.
Basil Hayden Sr. is the reason Kentucky is called ‘the bourbon capital of the world.’
In 1785, the devout Basil Hayden Sr. led a settlement of over 100 Catholics from 25 families to settle on land in Bardstown, Ky. This area became the place of origin for a plethora of famous bourbon brands, such as Heaven Hill and Willett. It also became the site of the first Catholic church in Kentucky — these guys were as serious about their bourbon as they were about their creed, apparently.
Basil Hayden’s face is on the Old Grand-Dad Bourbon bottle.
Old Grand-Dad Bourbon was founded by Basil Hayden’s grandson, Raymond B. Hayden, in 1840. Clearly, he loved his pops and appreciated his genius, so he put his grandpappy’s likeness on the labels of his bottles. Over the years, the visage has been changed to a happier one, as opposed to the stoic one depicted in the original colonial advertisement.
Basil Hayden’s bottles sport a unique, decked-out design.
The bottle has an old-timey, Prohibition-era feel, outfitted with a paper label and metallic band that’s embossed with the initials B. H. in silver and copper-hued finishes. You’ll definitely recognize it on the shelf.
Basil Hayden’s releases a special bourbon that only comes around once a year.
Every fall, Basil Hayden’s releases a 10-year bourbon that boasts a smokier, more complex flavor profile than the original. The bourbon is only available in select stores, so if you’re a whiskey lover, be sure to mark your calendar as soon as the leaves turn.
Basil Hayden’s also offers a limited-edition Caribbean Reserve Rye.
Basil Hayden’s has figured out beautiful things happen when you mix the spicy flavors of the American South with the subtle sweetness of the tropics. The brand offers a limited edition spirit that is a mix of its signature rye blends and Caribbean blackstrap rum. This one appears to be super rare, so if you’re able to snag a sip, consider yourself lucky.