Whiskey Review: Basil Hayden’s Caribbean Reserve Rye - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Basil Hayden’s Caribbean Reserve Rye

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Beam-Suntory. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review

What three-letter word for a very specific type of spirit starts with the letter “R” and is the topic of this post? If your answer was “rye,” you couldn’t be rye-ter (please bear with). If you guessed “rum,” congratulations, you also nailed it! If you responded Basil Hayden’s Caribbean Reserve Rye, which is finished with a touch of black strap rum, well, that’s not three letters, nor does it start with “R,” but whatever – we’re here to talk whiskey, not do crossword puzzles.

Blending 8-year-old Kentucky straight rye whiskey with 4-year-old Canadian rye whiskey, Beam Suntory is taking one of their finest premium labels – Basil Hayden’s – in an interesting new direction: throwing in a splash of rum for good measure. In the end, it would make sense that the only mixer good enough for the Basil Hayden brand might just be more high-end booze.

While one might say, “What’s the big deal? I drink rye out of the same unwashed glass I drink rum from all the time,” there’s more to this union than a lazy night of indiscreet drinking. The story of rum and rye is like that of Romeo and Juliet if Romeo were at least a millennium older: star-crossed lovers doomed to never blend… until they do… and the results are good…

Records trace rum back as far as the 7th century AD – conversely, rye has been around since the late 17th century, with interest in it domestically growing partially in response to rum shortages in North America. You might remember the United States had a little falling out with a certain colonial power they were once ruled by *cough, cough, England* who had a serious grip on the Caribbean, moreover molasses trade, ergo rum.

Those behind this mash up of sorts say that “as a brand that has always broken traditional whiskey expectations, we’re excited to help our fans discover new, interesting ways to enjoy the rye category.” Is this an expression that puts an interesting twist into such a whiskey? Let’s find out.

Basil Hayden's Caribbean Reserve Rye

Basil Hayden’s Caribbean Reserve Rye (image via Beam Suntory)

Tasting Notes: Basil Hayden’s Caribbean Reserve Rye

Vital Stats: 80 proof; an 8-year Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey blended with 4-year Canadian Rye, as mentioned above, finished with black strap rum – no exact ratios available; Prices around $45.

Appearance: Flat cola or iceless iced tea that you’d be pleasantly surprised to discover weren’t spoiled beverages that had been sitting around in the sun.

Nose: Pure maple all the way down, but not maple syrup, which contains high-fructose corn syrup and the trained nose can smell a mile away. Cloves, nutmeg, honey, and vanilla all come to mind after doing mental exercises that can help you forget maple momentarily.

Palate: Like a certain sort of sweet tree sap that – okay, okay, it tastes like maple, but there’s more to it than that. Crisp, rummy sweetness shines through cooling rye’s usual bite for a balanced blend that tantalizes tongues rather than torments them.

The Takeaway


A rye with a smooth bite that is sweet without being syrupy. There’s a maple richness to this blend that you’ll want to sip rather than pour over your pancakes. I give you my personal permission to use it as a mixer if you promise to choose wisely and stay classy – think Manhattans and Old Fashioneds without any simple syrup or sweeteners added.

User Rating 4 (1 vote)


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