Basil Hayden's is a Kentucky bourbon that sits in Jim Beam's Small Batch range alongside Baker's, Booker's and Knob Creek. The brand is named after Basil Hayden Sr. - a forefather of the Kentucky bourbon industry in the late-1700s. After the brand was revived in the 1990s, it has gone on to become a highly respected bourbon.
Basil Hayden's is known for its spicy, herbal and fruity characteristics. It is peppery and earthy with notes of lemon and orange zest, vanilla and green apple, plus hints of menthol and peppermint. The high rye content makes it perfect for classic cocktails such as the Boulevardier and Manhattan.
The range has expanded over the last decade and consists of several whiskeys. The Kentucky Straight Bourbon is the most popular and well known, winning multiple awards around the world. There is also a 10-year-old version of this. Both are great to drink neat.
Dark Rye is an innovative blend of Kentucky and Canadian Rye with an added splash of Californian Port. Toast is another experimental release that sees the rye in the mash bill replaced with brown rice. This spirit is matured in heavily charred American oak barrels. All releases are at 40% ABV (80 Proof).
As with all bourbons, Basil Hayden's has a mash bill (the recipe of grains used to produce the spirit) that is a minimum of 51% corn - a legal requirement for bourbon. The remaining percentage is made up of other cereals. These are malted barley, rye and wheat. For Basil Hayden's, the rye content is higher than in many other bourbons. The brand is described as 'artfully aged'. Until 2014 it showed an 8-year-old age statement on the label but is now believed to be a mix of ages.
Basil Hayden's bourbon was introduced by Jim Beam in 1992. It was created by Booker Noe, the Head Distiller at the time. The brand was named in honour of Meredith Basil Hayden Sr, a pioneer of the early bourbon industry in Kentucky. He was a cereal farmer turned distiller and was known to favour a high rye percentage in his mash bill as a result. Another link to Hayden comes with Old Grand-Dad - a Kentucky bourbon produced later by his grandson Raymond B. Hayden to honour his grandfather.
Meredith Basil Hayden Sr. was of British descent. His family relocated from Norfolk, England in the 1660s. The Heydon family (the name later became Hayden when written) had left England due to Catholic persecution. Having settled in Virginia, the family later moved to Maryland. Hayden Sr. was responsible for settling his family in Kentucky in 1785. He began distilling near Bardstown in 1792 and his first recorded whiskey was released in 1796.
The brand is currently owned by Beam Suntory. They have been in control since 2014 when Jim Beam and Japanese drinks company Suntory merged.