One maverick forever changed the face of an industry

When discussing Basil Hayden’s, we are talking about a high-rye bourbon with a light body. It is produced by the Jim Beam brands and belongs to the Small Batch Collection. The latter includes Baker’s, Booker’s and other iterations of the Knob Creek.

We’ve decided to focus on the story behind Basil Hayden’s – a story of how one whiskey maker broke all the rules and forever changed the industry.

Basil Hayden’s bourbon has long been one of the favorites for many people around the world. We will learn more about the famous brand and why is it that popular.

What You Need to Know about Basil Hayden’s Whisky

Basil Hayden

Source: Wikipedia

Brand History

This bourbon brand produced by Jim Beam was set up back in 1992. It wears the name of Meredith Basil Hayden, Sr, who was a distiller. He was famous for using more rye in his mash than other bourbons.

His grandson, Raymond B. Hayden, later on, founded a distillery and named it “Old Grand-Dad”, as a tribute to his grandfather.

The company claims that to this day they use a mash recipe similar to the one initially used by Hayden in 1792.

In more recent times, Beam Industries came up with their small batch collection and they included the Basil Hayden’s bourbon.

Basil Hayden’s story starts back in Maryland in 1785. This is the year when the Catholic whiskey maker led a group of 25 other Catholic families from Maryland to an area known today as the Nelson County in Kentucky.

He was quite an important influence in the area, considering that he donated land to the church. This would turn out to be the first Catholic church in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, as well as the first Catholic church found west of the Alleghenies.

The Beginning of a Great Story

Going further back into the past, we find out that the family’s name was initially spelled Heydon. When the social climate in England became rather harsh for Catholics, they emigrated in the 1660s and settled in the Virginia Colony.

Francis Hayden (who was Basil Sr.’s grandfather) was the first Heydon who then switched its name to Hayden.

In 1678, he had moved from Virginia to Maryland, settling in St. Clement’s Bay in St. Mary’s County. The family remained there until Basil led the families to Nelson County, Kentucky. During the American Revolution, Basil Sr. played an important role offering provisions to the Colonial Army.

Hayden’s family has its roots in Norfolk, England, where they lived briefly after the Norman Conquest.

One of their ancestors, Simon de Heydon, was knighted back then by Richard the Lionheart. This happened during the Third Crusade, which took place in the 1190s in the Holy Land. His son, called Thomas de Heydon, had been named Justice Itinerant of Norfolk by the King Henry III.

History shows us another ancestor, John Heydon, who lived 20 miles northeast of London.

Some researchers claim that John Heydon received the estate for the services his father, Richard de Heydon, offered in the French wars. However, this is not an official information, so reality might be a little different.

More about the Whiskey

Upon first inspection, the whiskey comes in a tall, sloped shoulder bottle.

You can see that the label is wrapped around the bottle vertically. There is also a paper and a metal band placed around the middle of the bottle serving to keep it in place.

Some say that it looks like it was already packaged for shipping.

There is silver foil capped over the cork, together with a small BH logo on the front idle band. You might find it a little bit messy, but it’s still quite attractive.

The color of the bourbon is a light golden one, and the liquid is very clear.

Aroma and Taste

You can see that the rye is evident on the nose. It brings some crisper citrus notes, as well as a peppery hint that is barely noticeable.

You may also notice some mint and licorice.

Regarding this whiskey’s flavor, Basil Hayden’s is not a strong bourbon. There is almost no burn from the alcohol on the first taste.

Indeed, you will taste a strong hint of butterscotch.

However, on the middle and back of the tongue, there are tastes of vanilla, lemon zest, and a mild rye spice. The Basil Hayden bourbon has a short finish.

Remember that this is a dry whiskey, and exceptionally so.

At the tail end, you will see a touch of rye spice, but all in all, this candidate for the title of best cheap bourbon doesn’t linger.

basil hayden's

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What Makes It Extraordinary

Many people argue that this is not an excellent whiskey.

Indeed, it may not be the best bourbon around. But, it’s probably a perfect combination of good taste and cheap price.

The blend leaves a more than pleasant taste in your mouth. Many people say that it’s not a good thing to mix it with water or ice since it is already mild in flavor and punch.

Moreover, this combination might actually kill the taste subtleties found in this rye bourbon. It is, in fact, great for cocktails (more on that later).

It represents the superb entry for a stronger cocktail.

Moreover, you can use this bourbon to help train your palate if you plan on drinking your bourbons neat. However, many people end up moving on to some other stronger and more complex drink after they’ve started with this entry-level drink.

A New Edition

Basil Hayden’s Rye Whiskey is a new edition to this brand released recently by BH.

It finds its inspiration in the core expression of the brand. The initial recipe relies on a high rye mash bill, using the double amount of rye traditionally used for bourbons.

This mash helps it to have a spicy finish.

The new expression consists in a limited edition Kentucky straight rye whiskey. It relies on a special technique called “re-barreling the rye”.

Basically, the new edition starts off as a 4-year-old traditional rye whiskey.

It is poured out of the barrels and then it is aged for 7 more years in new cask oak barrels. The final expression consists in this drink mixed with Kentucky straight rye whiskey.

As the company declared, the re-barrelling process allows the drink to have a spicier and deeper flavor due to an extended interaction between the bourbon and the wood.

Rob Mason, who works as the vice president of Bourbon at the Beam Suntory, said that the spicy rye taste has been a signature of Basil Hayden’s.

Indeed, it is mentioned in almost every Basil Hayden review you will find online.


Basil’s new edition is bottled at 80 proof, which means 40% abv.

You can buy a bottle of 750 ml for a price of $44.99.

The Basil Hayden price is yet another factor that convinces new bourbon enthusiasts to seek it out. At this price, it is very accessible and has lots of varieties.

In general, the price for a variety can start at $20 and end around the $50-$60.

For example, a bottle of Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey costs $44.99. Naturally, the older the bottle is, the higher the price.

Overall, this bourbon is a low-shelf one. So, you’ll never end up having to pay a fortune.

whiskey glasses
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Cocktail Suggestions

Now that you know pretty much everything about Basil Hayden’s, we prepared you a couple of serving suggestions as cocktails.

You can try these by the pool, at a party with your friends or on a chill winter evening by yourself.


  • ½ part Simple Syrup;
  • ½ part Fresh Lime juice;
  • 2 parts Basil Hayden’s Bourbon;
  • ½ part strawberry jam ginger beer;
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters Rosemary Sprig for garnishing.

How to Make It

Combine all the ingredients together, except for the ginger beer and shake them together with ice. Strain it over ice in a rocks glass and then add the ginger beer. Use the rosemary sprig for garnishing the glass.


  • 3/4 parts fresh lime juice;
  • 2 ripe figs, cut in half;
  • Ground cloves;
  • 2 parts Basil Hayden’s;
  • ¾ simple syrup;
  • 1 lime wedge for garnishing;
  • 1 rosemary sprig.

How to Make It

First, muddle the figs in a shaker. Then add the bourbon, together with the lime juice and some simple syrup to the shaker. Shake it all with ice.

Strain the drink into a coupe glass and pour ground cloves on top of it. Use the lime wedge for garnishing, together with the rosemary sprig.


  • ¾ parts cinnamon syrup;
  • 3 cloves;
  • 2 parts Basil Hayden’s;
  • 3 apple slices;
  • ¾ parts lime juice;
  • 2 dashes of Angostura bitter;
  • Several apple slices.

How to Make It

Mix together the cinnamon syrup and the cloves in a cocktail shaker. Shake it vigorously for about 10 seconds. In a different shaker, muddle the apple pieces.

Strain the mixture of cinnamon and clove, together with the muddled apples. Add the bourbon and the lime juice.

Shake it 10 seconds and then strain it into a lowball glass where you had previously added ice. Add 2 dashes of bitters on top of the drink. Thus, you will create a float. Lastly, garnish it all with a fan made of various apple slices.

Remember that you can make your own cinnamon syrup if you don’t want to buy some. Combine a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat. Keep it there until the sugar is completely dissolved, then add 6 cinnamon sticks and let it stay overnight.

Before using the syrup, remove the cinnamon sticks.

YUM – Enjoy!


All in all, Basil Hayden’s cheap bourbon is an excellent choice for newcomers who are more concerned about price and not sure if bourbon is the drink for them.

This is an excellent spirit for those of you who don’t want to spend too much but also don’t want to compromise on quality.

Hayden himself had quite a strong personality, and his legacy will remain forever within the whiskey industry forever thanks to this blend.

So, that is our overview of Basil Hayden’s drink. Did you find this story particularly interesting? Don’t forget to share with your friends on Facebook or Twitter!

And, leave us a comment below. We love to hear from our readers.

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