Whiskey Friday: Basil Hayden’s

A spirit doesn’t need to be 50% alcohol and be accompanied by a kick in the dick to be a considered a great bourbon. That’s why we’re drinking Basil Hayden’s this Whiskey Friday. When most people think of small batch spirits, big-flavors and high proofs only consumed by the manliest of men come to mind. Well, Basil Hayden says you can go f’ yourself. If fine wine was whiskey, it would be Basil.

Colin Joliat

The spirit, made by Beam, is named after Basil Hayden, Sr. If you think he needs a little more street cred to make up for being named Basil, you should know that “Old Grand-Dad” is also named after him. Do you have two bourbons named after you? No, I didn’t think so. Back in the day, Hayden used more rye in the mash than most distillers, and that tradition is carried on by Beam today. It’s light on the tongue and the flavors are smooth and crisp. Unlike some whiskey in which the fruit is hidden behind the heat, you can actually taste citrus right away. Part of that is due to its relatively low 80-proof. That overindulgence in rye we noted earlier still manages to provide plenty of spice even at the low ABV. There is a light burn up front, but it fades in about 15-20 seconds, never to be heard from again (until the inevitable next sip, obviously).

Basil is more mellow than just about any other high quality bourbon I’ve tried. If you’ve made your way to Maker’s Mark but haven’t made the jump beyond, give Basil Hayden’s a try. It has enough complexity to appeal to hardcore whiskey lovers, but it really shines for people new to the game. Be careful though; because it’s so light and smooth, it’s easy to drink more than your liver’s fair share in a short amount of time.  It’s $38 in Chicago, so you may want to cozy up to the bar and try it first. I’d say it’s well worth the price of admission.