Back in the mid-1990s, I went to a tasting of Jim Beam’s new “small batch collection”, hosted by Booker Noe and Paul Pacault. They started with Basil Hayden Bourbon and stated that it was a low 80 proof because they wanted a Bourbon that would appeal to drinkers of Canadian whisky. It was designed to be light in flavor and easy to drink. In the 25 years or so since that tasting, Beam has introduced a couple of different expressions of Basil Hayden and they do seem to be sticking to that concept. This rye is no exception. It is light and simple. There is flavor, but I would love to try this same whiskey at 90 or 100 proof.
Basil Hayden Kentucky Straight Rye
Age: 10 Years Old
Nose: very light and simple – rye grass, vanilla verging upon being caramel and a little oak.
Taste: A thin mouth-feel and not complex. Rye grass, vanilla and oak – just as the nose indicated. When tasted with a dried cranberry there is a little more mouth-feel and a little cinnamon spice comes out to join the party. When tasted with a pecan, the vanilla comes forward with a little cinnamon and oak.
Finish: Medium long with a hint of spice and white pepper with some oak. The cranberry made the pepper fade into the background and made the baking spice a strong cinnamon. The pecan made the finish stronger in oak and the overall finish much drier.
I am pairing this rye whiskey with an A. Fuente Reserva Don Carlos “Eye of the Shark” cigar. I find the smoke to be a bit earthy with tobacco and hay flavors, a little cedar spiciness balanced by a little vanilla. I am hoping these flavors will bring out some of the similar notes in the rye. The smoke does enhance the spice notes with some cinnamon and nutmeg flavors and the vanilla becomes a little stronger. The rye makes the smoke stronger in vanilla flavor with a mellowing of the spices so they are more in the background behind the vanilla. Not a bad pairing at all.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller