“When is a present not a present?” – Baron Harkonnen, Dune
The whiskey I’ll be reviewing right this moment was “gifted” to me by Ryan, who was positive I’d hate it. He even went so far as to incorporate a home made meme (reproduced beneath), during which “Temple of Doom”-era Indiana Jones warns me, “Put together to satisfy Basil Hayden… in Hell!”
Nonetheless, it arrived in time to welcome me to my new dwelling, which created a pleasant feeling (dare I describe it as “heat and toasty?”). It additionally represents a problem to my present preconceptions. I respect each the gesture and the prospect to place my very own biases and heuristics to the check with the kind of bottle I’d completely, positively, never-ever-in-a-million-years buy for myself: Basil Hayden Toast.
Repeat readers of this website will likely be accustomed to my ordinary disdain for the whiskeys within the Basil Hayden secure. Corey was not way more impressed with their 10 yr previous bourbon, although he allowed that hardcore bourbon freaks (of the sort that produce critiques for this website) are most likely not the meant viewers for 80 proof bourbon.
I’d agree, but in addition provide the next pushback: if somebody is actually a bourbon novice they usually need to start growing their palate on decrease proof bourbon, there are such a lot of reasonably priced choices from which to decide on. Sorting my native liquor retailer’s stock of 750 ml bottles of bourbon so as of ascending value, a newcomer may strive bottles of Benchmark ($11), Zackariah Harris ($11), Previous Fitzgerald ($14), and Evan Williams ($15), all for roughly the price of the whiskey in my fingers.
To remain within the Lucasfilm universe, I’m reminded of a little bit of knowledge from Star Wars’ Jawas, the scavenging natives of Tatooine: “Don’t think about a use for one thing; think about another person who may discover a use for it.” Placing on my artistic cap, I’ll now attempt to envision the kind of one who can be a fan and repeat purchaser of Basil Hayden bourbon. [thinking noises]
Incorrigible good aleck that I’m, the glib reply that first springs to thoughts is “Somebody with extra money than style!” That’s not fairly proper, although. Basil Hayden is overpriced for what it’s, however it’s not that costly, within the broader context of bourbon within the yr 2022. For those who have been a wealthy fool who knew nothing about bourbon and didn’t care to teach your self, you wouldn’t be shopping for Basil Hayden to impress individuals (you’d be shopping for Blue Run).
My second thought, no much less glib, is “somebody who hates bourbon however desires to drink it anyway.” In spite of everything, Basil Hayden isn’t unhealthy whiskey, within the sense of getting objectionable aromas and flavors that make it disagreeable to drink. It begins off pretty much as good whiskey – the sort that would find yourself as Booker’s or Baker’s or Knob Creek or OGD 114 – and endures water torture till it’s a skinny, pale shadow of no matter got here from the barrel.
Perhaps there’s a set of delicate souls who benefit from the elemental flavors of bourbon, however can solely tolerate them of their most subdued type? Perhaps they’re supertasters, and the merest trace of character is sufficient to overwhelm their nostril and palate? Once more, although, why not simply go for any of the comparably weak and extra attractively priced choices of the sort famous above?
No matter whether or not or not I can conceive of a target market for Basil Hayden, the existence of those of us is strongly supported by the truth that Jim Beam retains making the stuff. Not solely that, however they periodically present gildings on the theme of whiskey-diluted-until-it-is-at-the-very-edge-of-being-whiskey. Introduced in early August of 2021, this Basil Hayden Toast is simply such a variation. In response to Beam’s personal website for this expression:
“The newest everlasting launch from Basil Hayden consists of a completely new brown rice mashbill and a secondary end in toasted barrels.”
That bit in regards to the mash invoice piqued my curiosity. Exploring additional, I discovered this verbiage from the announcement press launch:
“In lieu of conventional rye grain, Basil Hayden Toast is made utilizing US-grown brown rice… whereas a secondary toasted barrel end attracts out notes of caramelized sugar and toasted wooden. After growing older, the toasted brown rice bourbon is mixed again with extra brown rice bourbon, which has been rested in stage 4 char barrels.”
Setting apart my regular reservations, I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. I’m all the time extra all for novel approaches once they’re targeted on the entrance finish of the bourbon making course of (grains, fermentation, distillation, and barrel entry proof) than on the again finish (novelty barrels or wacky finishes). That mentioned, this expression incorporates each funky grain (within the type of the rice) and the now-ubiquitous toasted barrel, of which many sorts have been reviewed on this area.
The bottling energy on this, as will all of the Basil Hayden expressions, is a authorized minimal 80 proof (40% ABV). SRP for that is $50, a premium to the $40 for which the usual Basil Hayden bourbon retails. Let’s see if this putative white elephant will truly change into a present that retains on giving?
Basil Hayden Toast – Evaluation
Colour: Medium pale gold.
On the nostril: Very Beam-like, with the aroma of salted peanut shells wafting out of the glass instantly. I get a really juicy orangey fruitiness within the method of a ripe clementine, in addition to some floral notes of roses. There’s a touch of spice in right here in addition to some refined woodiness, however nothing that screams out “toasted barrel” to me. With a while, I begin to sense a creamy, buttery be aware that’s accented by a little bit of piquant black peppercorn and a few freshly reduce inexperienced grass. A very good begin in all however – as is all the time the case with Basil Hayden – I’ll reserve judgment till I see whether or not this may maintain up on the palate.
Within the mouth: A gentle woodiness and a few wispy flavors of mocha announce the arrival of this whisky on the tip of the tongue. From there, it goes largely mute because it strikes towards the center of the mouth, the place probably the most noticeable attribute is an extremely imprecise sense of bourbon-ness, with the amount dialed all the way in which right down to the faintest of whispers. Perhaps lemon, perhaps caramel, perhaps vanilla, perhaps oak… who is aware of? The flavors listed here are so insubstantial that they defy identification
Frank Zappa mentioned, “Artwork is making one thing out of nothing, and promoting it.” Freddie Noe has executed the alternative right here; in taking these uncooked supplies (each the progressive mash invoice and the toasted barrels) and utilizing them to supply this bourbon, he has made nothing out of one thing. The nostril has just a few factors of intrigue, however within the mouth that is as boring and as pedestrian a whisky as Jim Beam White Label… and prices solely thrice as a lot.
I’m flabbergasted by this whiskey, and never in a great way. Regardless of the rice within the mash invoice and the toasted barrel end, that is nearly indistinguishable from Basil Hayden. Why did Beam even hassle making this? Oh yeah: cash. You understand the place that is headed…
A few of you’ll now be stuffed with remorse at having indulged my thousand phrases of meandering preamble earlier than being handled to a evaluate and rating that most likely may have been predicted from simply studying the title. In my protection, I’ll say that I do my greatest to enter every evaluate within the spirit of open-minded optimism. I like discovering an important whiskey for value and telling you all about it. They’re on the market, however this ain’t it.
Reasonably, this can be a microcosmic recapitulation of many – not all, however tons – of the issues incorrect with bourbon whiskey right this moment. It’s additionally more and more changing into the rule relatively than the exception, which sucks a number of the enjoyable out of making an attempt new whiskeys from each established producers and startups. Sadly, it will most likely worsen earlier than it will get higher, and I’m pretty sure that Ryan will ensure that I proceed to have the chance to style the worst of the worst. To him I’d prefer to as soon as once more categorical my thanks, and in addition to say, “See you in hell.”
Lead picture courtesy of Basil Hayden/Jim Beam.