Whiskey Review: Basil Hayden’s Rye Whiskey

Basil Hayden's Rye WhiskeyAs we wrote earlier this year, Basil Hayden’s is a known for being a high-rye bourbon, with around twice as much rye in the mash bill as traditional bourbons and a spicy flavor profile to show it. With rye whiskey booming in popularity, it makes perfect sense that the company recently released a rye whiskey.

Basil Hayden’s is owned by Beam Suntory, and is the lightest-bodied of their higher-end bourbons, which also include Knob Creek and Booker’s.

This is a straight rye whiskey that’s been aged in an unusual way. A portion of it is so-called “re-barreled” rye, which means it’s a four-year-old whiskey that was dumped and then aged an additional seven years in quarter-size new charred oak barrels. The remainder of the whiskey is traditionally-aged, NAS rye whiskey. The company doesn’t disclose how much of each whiskey is in the bottle, but a press release uses the phrase “just a touch” in reference to the re-barreled rye.

Like its bourbon cousin, this rye is bottled at a light 80 proof. The low proof and relatively high price point (around $45) has garnered Basil Hayden’s some level of flak among “serious” whiskey drinkers, and it’s marketed heavily at younger drinkers. The bottle, with its distinctive paper “bib,” certainly makes it stand out on the shelf. The rye is going for the same price as the bourbon, though for now it’s a limited run.

Tasting Notes: Basil Hayden’s Rye

Color: Deep gold.

Nose: Quite woody at first. Baking spices, vanilla, and black pepper become more prevalent after a few minutes in the glass, followed by orange peel.

Palate: Very demure, with soft spice, faint red fruit, and—surprisingly, to me, given the large amount of contact this whiskey had with new oak—just a whisper of wood on the finish. It’s almost vanishingly light on the palate.

  • The Takeaway

Summary

Easy-sipping is the name of the game here. This is a well-balanced and very approachable whiskey; in fact, I find myself a little disappointed at just how easy-sipping it is. For an expression whose supposed aim was to lean into rye, this whiskey is quite meek and mellow, and, at 80 proof, nearly faint on the palate.

On the other hand, I want to be careful not to say "approachable" dismissively. This is a pleasant dram, and I can see it being a nice introduction to rye whiskey for folks who typically drink bourbon.

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About the author

Katelyn Best

Katelyn is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon. She's a regular contributor to the Whiskey Wash with an affinity for the unique and weird side of whiskey.