Exploring America's Native Spirit
Exploring America's Native Spirit

The Labyrinthine Rye – Possibly the first Basil Hayden’s Rye Review

There are many positives and negatives to being a traveling consultant. Without boring you with the challenges, I will say, a fun part is whiskey hunting after work commitments are done. I used to feel guilty going liquor store to liquor store and not buying anything; however, after time that uneasy feeling dissipates. When you see the same bottles over and over again or a bottle of ORVW Lob B for $600, you become disconnected. For a while I stopped going.

Yesterday, I thought I would give it another go. Lo and behold, I stumbled upon a bottle of Basil Hayden’s Rye. I quickly posted on a Bourbon Facebook group that I belong to and tweeted about it. Many people responded, but I think many missed the point that this was a Rye Whiskey release, not the typical high-rye bourbon under the same name.

Today was stressful and when I returned to the room I still had a headache from trying to answer enigmatic questions. I had planned to wait to be home to try the BH Rye. I had planned to be patient. Plans often go out the window. Sometimes you have to trust your gut. My gut was telling me that the best thing I could do was to go to bed. Sometimes you ignore your gut and let your whiskey geek out.

Early in my bourbon exploration, I found Basil Hayden’s and I rather enjoyed it. Easy to drink with a hint of premium. As I became enthralled with bourbon, I started acquiring more and more bottles that I had not purchased before, to the point that it was rare to have a duplicate of anything in my hoard of 60+ bottles. Yes, I know many of you have bunkers much deeper, but my budget had limits.

A step back, here is what www.basilhaydens.com has to say about its bourbon (no mention of the Rye yet) and its namesake:

“In 1796, Master Distiller Basil Hayden Sr. broke 'the rules' by mixing small grains into the mash of a traditional corn base. A Maryland transplant unafraid to stand out amidst the residing establishment, Basil conjectured that the spicy flavor of rye would be a striking complement to the sweet smoothness of corn in his distillery's standard bourbon. And much to the chagrin of the traditionalist set, Basil was right. His recipe was a masterpiece, resulting in a unique, singular small batch bourbon whiskey that was blessed with rich hints of peppermint, notes of pepper, slight citrus overtones, and a spicy, warming finish.

Artfully aged at a relatively mild 80 proof, Basil Hayden's® is as novel and delectable a bourbon whiskey as it was when the master distiller rolled out his first barrel over 200 years ago. Marked by a rich cascade of aromas and flavors, Basil Hayden's® is still a small batch bourbon, but with broader appeal. And just as it was in 1796, the only 'rule' to enjoying our Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey is that it should be done responsibly.”

Back to the Rye. I poured the whiskey into the finest plastic cup provide by my hotel. I went to nose the golden beverage that looked more like a golden ale or apple juice in color than whiskey and I was puzzled. I am not sure if my headache, wondering mind, or over scented room had clouded my olfactory skills, but I did not get a strong sense of the aroma after multiple passes.

Neat, I concluded, that the nose “lead” with light oak, followed by leather, green apple and mint. Not exactly what I was expecting. When I took my first sip, my rudimentary palate found a familiar Jim Beam family profile. After the “Beamness” left my stream of consciousness, I felt that the whiskey was thin as I consumed it. There was intense spice at the end. Reminded me of cinnamon and black pepper. It tasted stronger than 80 proof. It had some gusto with a favorable, looming aftertaste. Though a slight menthol burn briefly appeared. Overall though, the finish was quite fulfilling.

Then I tried it with a splash of water and it “got weird.” Not necessarily in a bad way, but the nose was still of slight oak, but I was torn between a secondary of bitter orange or honey nut cheerios. I was vexed by the difference. As I sipped on the drink now, I sensed oak, nutmeg, black pepper and a trailing cinnamon. I am now questioning my sanity and my ability to perceive varying characteristics. It still had a fairly strong “Beamness,”

So, I decided to add an ice cube. Not a specialty cube, cut to perfect dimensions and crystal clear. No, it was an ice cube from down the hall in an unimpressive vending machine. I get lost in thinking about enjoying whiskey for a moment. For me it boils down to, 1) do I like it and 2) was it worth what I paid for it.

Anyway, returning to the pour. The nose, moved back in line with my finding from the neat pour; oak and green apple. There was still a Beam aftertaste, but this was much closer to what I am accustomed to with drinking Basil Hayden’s. It was so easy to drink, I thought that it could spell trouble on a non-working night.

In the end, I enjoyed the neat pour the most. It had a definite presence, even at 80 proof. I wish I would have had the mixin’s to make an Old Fashioned, because I think this juice would have excelled there. For the retail plus tax price of approximately $56, I would place a strong buy on it. I am uncertain of the supply, but I feel this is going to be a sought-after product.


What's in my bar now...

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star

Ancient Ancient Age 10 Year


Basil Hayden's

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #32

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #59

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #60

Buffalo Trace Single Oak #62


Col. E.H. Taylor Warehouse C Tornado

David Nicholson 1843 BIB

Eagle Rare

Elijah Craig 12 Year

Elmer T Lee

Elmer T Lee Commemorative

Evan Williams SB Bourbon Affair

Ezra Brooks Black Label

Four Roses Small Batch

George T. Stagg 2013

Heaven Hill Gold Label BIB

Heaven Hill White Lable BIB

Henry McKenna 10 Year BIB

Jim Beam Black 8 Year

Jim Beam Choice 5 Year

Kentucky Vintage

Maker's Mark

Maker's Mark 46

Michter's Single Barrell 10 Year

Old Bardstown Estate

Old Fitzgerald BIB

Old Forester

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon

Old Grand Dad 86

Old Weller Antique 107

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year 2013

Spring Mill

Stagg Jr. 2013

Town Branch


Wild Turkey 81

Wild Turkey Tradition 14 Year


Willian Heavenhill 15 Year 2015

Woodford Reserve

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