Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Review

Basil Hayden's Bourbon Review

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon is part of the Jim Beam Small Batch series along with Booker’s, Knob Creek and Baker’s. It’s unlike the other 3 because instead of using the traditional Jim Beam low-rye mashbill it’s created using Jim Beam’s high-rye mashbill and is the same whiskey that goes into bottles of Old Grand-Dad, just a bit older. How much older? Who knows. All I know is that since they removed the 8 year age statement it really hasn’t tasted the same.

I’ve read reports of it now being 6 years old, but until they put it on the bottle I’m not going to associate an age with it, and they really should bring that back. Basil Hayden’s needs something to distinguish itself from the rest of the OGD line-up other than a fancier bottle and a better-than-the-80-proof-but-not-as-good-as-the-bonded character. With no majorly distinguishing characteristics it’s really nothing more than a better expression of Old Grand-Dad 80 in a fancier bottle and to be honest that’s not worth the 3.3X price difference.

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Info

Region: Kentucky, USA

Distiller: Jim Beam
Mashbill: 63% Corn, 27% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
Cask: New charred oak
Age: NAS
ABV: 40%

Price: $53

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Review

Polished brass

The aroma is light and fruity with notes of spice, citrus, dark sweets and vanilla. Some weak notes of wood, blackberry licorice, new leather and root beer popsicles add a bit of dimension and it makes me wonder what this would smell like at a higher proof. Yes I know OGD 114 is technically a higher proof version, but I mean a higher proof of what this is supposed to be: a “small batch” of “cherry barrels” blended together.

Oak, caramel, vanilla and baking spices dominate the palate, but don’t achieve the richness they should. A bit of minerality, leather and pepper pop up towards the end and leave me wanting more substance. It’s nice, but like the nose, it’s light.

Short and oaky with light notes of leather, pepper and dark sweets.

An ok balance, medium body and a soft unassuming texture make for a “okay” experience.

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon isn’t bad, it’s just weaker than it should be. Looking at the Small Batch lineup: Booker’s is cask strength, Baker’s is 107 proof, Knob Creek is 100 proof and this is a paltry 80 proof… what gives Jim Beam? A well matured, high-proof version of Old Grand-Dad has the potential to deliver some seriously amazing flavors and aromas, but they go and water it down to being barely legal – taking a potentially amazing aroma and flavor experience and cutting it off at the knees.

If I were King of Jim Beam for a day I would cut the Old Grand-Dad 80 proof from the line up and turn Basil Hayden’s into a single cask, cask strength, bourbon to fully differentiate it from the pack and justify its price. At the very least it should be given the Booker’s treatment; blend it from a small batch of barrels and leave it uncut. This is a good bourbon that has potential to be a fantastic bourbon and it’s a shame to see that potential watered down to this.

SCORE: 83/100

Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Review - Score Breakdown
  • Nose - 83
  • Palate - 83
  • Finish - 83
  • Balance, Body & Feel - 83


Basil Hayden’s Bourbon isn’t a bad whiskey, it is a bad value. For $26 less you can get Old Grand-Dad 114 and that is a significantly better expressions of the Jim Beam high-rye mashbill.

Basil Hayden's Bourbon Label

Josh Peters

Josh Peters

I read about, think about, write about, and drink whisk(e)y. In short, it's my passion.
Josh Peters

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30 Responses to Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Review

    • Based on how Fred Noe talks about it these days, I don’t think that’s far off: BH is now positioned as the other end of the scale to Knob Creek and Booker’s. Light, unaggressive, bourbon for newbies with more expensive tastes. It’s either not as good as it was 10-15 years ago, which makes you wonder what they do with all the high-rye juice, or my tastes have changed.

      • Hey Nick,

        I think it’s definitely gone downhill over the years. I did a side-by-side with this and an older bottle (age stated) my buddy had and his was strikingly better. It used to have a richness to it, but now it’s soft and meek.

    • Hey now – I resemble that remark.

      On a lighter note – I got into bourbon this time last year after getting fed up with the rising prices of single malt scotch, and growing number of NAS whisky that Scottish distillers apparently have to trouble pumping out in large volumes.

  1. Josh,
    Nice review. I know that price shouldn’t be a factor when reviewing a whiskey, but the price for this one always put me off. Around here it goes for $46.99 today I found it for $25.99, at that price I figured why not? I am looking forward to a tasting posibly even tonight. Keep up the great work you do by taking one for the team and subjecting yourself the the grueling task of trying all of these whiskies for us. You sir are a soldier!

  2. I’ll judge any NAS whisky based solely on taste provided that’s how it has always been issued. But there’s no marketing gimmick that would convince me to buy a product which once boasted an age statement, such as Basil Hayden. In short, once an age statement is dropped, I drop the product.

  3. Come on people—-It clearly says 80 proof on the label. Why complain that it doesn’t taste and finish like 100 proof?? What did you expect? That’s like climbing into a Nash Rambler and complaining that it doesn’t have the pep of a Roadrunner. There are many instances into which an 80 proof premium bourbon fits. Isn’t that why there are so many brands at so many proofs? Isn’t there room for everyone? If you want the punch, bite and burn of 100 proof—-buy it! Don’t buy 80 and complain that it isn’t 100. Besides, Basil has a very nice nose, palate and finish when consumed neat. It’s very nice at a business lunch when you want to keep a clear head and for some of my older friends, it’s ideal because it lets them drink good bourbon that isn’t so rough on the older body. Lighten up—-to each his own. Cheers!

    • Hey Mark. The complaint isn’t that it’s only 80 proof, but that it’s only 80 proof and priced the way it is. It’s no longer an 8 year bourbon (now NAS), only sits at 80 proof and is barely any different than the regular OGD 80 proof. The only reason it’s premium is that it’s in a premium looking bottle. At the very least they should be presenting this at 46% and non-chill filtered to give a noticeably different experience than what can easily be had for 1/3 the price. At least that’s my complaint anyways.


  4. I’m a new Bourbon drinker. I have sophisticated tastes in vodka’s and tequilas but I have always been put off by the heavy oaky dark charcoal whiskies. I hope starting here will help me develop a taste for this stuff. My liquor dealer recommended this because he knows my taste.

  5. Love the blog – keep up the good work. I always find myself agreeing with your reviews and while I cannot pickup all the notes/complexities that you do, I get some of them and you always hit the nail on the head. However, I must say this is the first time I “partially” disagree with you. This bourbon is the best tasting 80 proof bourbon I’ve ever had. I reject the idea that it should be criticized due to its proof vs price. To use beer as an example, this whisky to me is like an extremely drinkable lager/pilsner that tastes awesome and is very downable. And a strong IPA might be like the bottle of bookers I have on hand: lots more going on flavor wise, which i appriciate, buts its a different animal. Basil hayden is like Stella, while, say, Jim Beam is coors. Both are light, but one is superior. To me, kicking basil hayden for simply not being something different doesn’t make sense. I think it’s super drinkable and smooth. Lots of flavor, but easy. I like it neat or with 1 ice cube, while I prefer bookers over rocks to cut the heat and open up the flavor. Both are great, just different. To me, basil is worth the money.


    • Hey Scott, thanks for sharing. Basil Haydens is indeed soft and sippable, but so is the Old Grand-Dad 80 proof. OGD 80 is significantly cheaper and not a whole lot different than the BH and that’s the criticism. They already have a NAS 80 proof high-rye whisky (OGD 80), but because it’s not in a fancy bottle they charge less. You’re paying a ton just for packaging. To me it’s not worth the price hike from the OGD 80 to the BH.

  6. I loved it. Full flavored yet approachable. Is it the best bargain? Who cares? I’m not looking to pinch pennys. I enjoy trying different bourbons along with keeping a big bottle of Evan Williams as a standby and drink mixer. My taste usually goes for higher alcohol bourbons, so I was pleasantly surprised by this one. BEst buy ofr me: Four Roses offering at around 30 dollars.

  7. I had Basil Hayden in a Christmas bourbon tasting lineup and you’re on point, as usual. It came out ahead of some New York “bourbon” (really?) and the Jim Beam Bonded, but definitely fell short of the Michter’s and Maker’s 46. For me, it’s like Woodford–Basil Hayden seems okay on its own but when compared to other bourbons, it seems like weak tea.

    But really–cutting OGD 80 proof?? Some of us plebes need a little variety in our lives, Josh!(I know, I know, the OGD 100 proof is about 3 bucks more and is way better, you’re right. But still.)

  8. I had this many times. No reason to buy this when OGD 100 is cheaper and better. The one good thing g about Basil is that it Introduced me to OGD 100. Spot on review.

  9. HI Josh, I have to say you pretty much nailed this review. I am drinking my first bottle of Basil Hayden and got into bourbon only in the last two years so have never had the longer aged product. I find it spicy, lacking richness, dry, lacking in mouthfeel and it gets a N for Not Buy Again on my list. I only paid $40 here in NJ but there are many others I would rather have at that price. It is not BAD but certainly not great. Think I gave it an 85 on my scale, which changes slightly as I taste more offerings. For $40 I would rather have a Hirsch, or Clyde May, Hancocks or even Four Roses Small Batch, which is closer to $30! Heck for $40 I can get Four Roses Single Barrel, which is typically one of my highest rated! Anyway, thanks again for the great reviews. You taught me much of what I know.

  10. I’m an avid Basil drinker. About a bottle a month. It is, for my taste (which may be, admittedly, rather elementary) the smoothest brown at a reasonable price. Between my group of friends and I, we love this stuff. After reading your review I realized it is very light (not like Jack Daniels, heavy lingering aftertaste) and gives a great buzz. I’d say high 80s low 90s on a good day. Not sure how the older stuff tasted but it’s not too shabby for a newbie.

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