Review: Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Friends, boozers, and drunkards:  I have been privileged. When my father was tasked, once again, with the task of selecting a beverage for me to review he went overboard.  I could have expected him to take this as an opportunity to be cruel, to buy the cheapest of cheap Canadian whiskies to see what I would do. Hint: No whisky (Canadian spelling) goes to waste, no matter how awful.  Instead, as the headline indicates, he bought Basil Hayden’s.  As a poor young man a $25 dollar bottle is a treat.  Basil is a bottle reaching into the premium market.  Clearly I was thrilled.  First impressions: The bottle looks like something gift wrapped for Ernest Hemingway, aged and yellowed paper askew and held on with the manliest of ribbon and bow; a thin wood tie with metal letters riveting it together.  Image: check. The label also notes how Basil Sr. started distilling in Kentucky in 1796, so history: check.

Now, let’s tear out that cork with our teeth and take a pull.  This isn’t just any other bourbon.  On the nose there is a lot of sweetness and some brown sugar while also being a bit strangely minty—and that isn’t unpleasant. The mouth profile is clearly distinct, while holding many of those traditional chewy caramel and honey notes, a bit of oak char and some of those sweet soft candy notes from the nose.  Not insanely complex or overpowering, just sweet and tasty. What really strikes me with this whiskey is where the heat is.  I’ve been abusing my palette lately with whiskies in the magma range, so taking in some standard 80 proof seems quite tame—that is until Basil hits the back of my throat and shoots up my sinuses. That’s where all the burn is, it’s not hot on the tongue; just goes puff the magic dragon into my nose.  About a week ago I had a sinus infection (I’ve been away, hence the not posting.)  I couldn’t breathe from my nose at all.  So I took one of those baths that makes you sweat, drank 3 cups of high strength French press coffee and a few drams of Basil Hayden’s.  I came out wired, buzzed, and breathing.  Every sip cleaned my sinuses out.  Whiskey is the best kind of medicine. And caffeine. And whatever actual medicine I may have taken.


Yes, Basil Hayden has a halo, all whiskey should.

Anyways, let’s wrap this up with a manly bow like the Basil bottle.  It’s tasty, though extremely complex, standard strength, but with an unusual burn.  It’s an unusually crafted whiskey.  I like it, and it seems like one of those whiskies that will have a cult following, devotees to whom nothing else will meet their exacting demands.  I’m glad those people have their dream whiskey.  For me Basil Hayden’s is enjoyable, no doubt, but it isn’t something I’m necessarily going to seek out at its price point.  I feel like perhaps the fancy wrapping paper is perhaps driving the price of this whiskey higher than it should be.  Of course as a young broke man I’m still going to save the last dram of this bottle for a special occasion, because this is good classy stuff, and it looks great on a bar. It’s just not going to end up in the shopping cart every trip. Then again, maybe I’ve found a great cure for allergies…