Basil Hayden, one of the most popular “gateway” bourbons on the market‚ just dropped a new bottle that’ll make us all want to be novices again. Basil Hayden Toast is a first-of-its-kind bourbon. The new recipe replaces the Jim Beam distillery’s signature rye with brown rice, and finishes the whiskey in specially toasted barrels for added depth and flavor.
The benefits of brown rice
The folks at Beam tell us the Basil Hayden Toast recipe is made with U.S.-grown brown rice. It was chosen for this recipe to impart “a hint of sweetness and a touch less spice.”
Swapping out rye for brown rice cuts a significant portion of the well known “rye spice” flavor. It’s a taste that can be too aggressive for new drinkers. In addition, the toasted barrel finish replaces that spice with deeper elements of sweetness: notes of caramelized sugar and toasted wood.
The toasted version of this is then married with some un-toasted brown rice bourbon from level four char barrels. The final product is complex and flavorful in a way Basil Hayden has never been before. Basil Hayden Toast also looks a little different than traditional Basil Hayden bottles. It’s the first release to get an update that’ll be phased into the rest of the collection over time.
A new Basil Hayden distiller
Credit for this bottle is due in part to eighth-generation master distiller Freddie Noe. It’s one of the most interesting bottles from Basil Hayden since it got its start in 1992. Back then, Basil Hayden was targeted toward new bourbon drinkers. It was released alongside Knob Creek, Booker’s, and Baker’s as a “more subtle side of bourbon.” They wanted to make products with high rye mash bills approachable to whiskey novices.
In other words, it was a gateway bourbon. It was an introduction to the other stuff in the portfolio without bludgeoning people with more bold and flavorful products.
In recent years, a few innovation bottles have hit the market, showcasing other Beam family recipes, but redesigned for Basil Hayden consumers. They’ve also offered some finished options.
This is Freddie Noe’s first official foray into Basil Hayden releases. He’s previously produced limited-edition whiskeys under his annual blend-focused line “Little Book.” He also had a delicious reimagining of Old Tub released last year.
Looking for a larger audience
Basil Hayden Toast is his first outing with barrel finishes, and he’s aiming at the widest target audience segment.
“Basil Hayden Toast is truly a whiskey for fans of all taste and experience levels to share,” said Freddie Noe. “When my grandfather Booker Noe first made Basil Hayden, his intention was always to create bourbon that opened people’s minds to what bourbon can be. Inspired by his mission, I’ve spent many years working to produce a new bourbon that speaks to this sense of discovery,”
Noe has been working with brown rice recipes for some time. Jim Beam first released a brown rice recipe under the Signature Craft line nearly a decade ago. After stepping into the whiskey-crafting role full-time, Noe has since used it in Little Book.
“The unexpected addition of brown rice,” he explained in a statement, “as well as the toasted barrel finish of Basil Hayden Toast … delivers an intriguing avenue into the warm and memorable bourbon sipping occasion.”
The toast and brown rice give this a lot of depth that, for the average bourbon consumer, has always been “missing” from a bottle of Basil Hayden. Don’t mistake us—there’s nothing wrong with Basil Hayden. But as one of the category’s most popular “gateway” bottles, its low proof point and higher filtration factor have made some previous special releases feel thin or structurally weak.
Not so with this bottle. This stuff is light on alcohol at the brand-typical 80 proof, but flavor shows up in a major way. And it’s all without diminishing that trademark “approachability” factor.
At $50, we have no complaints about the price. Given that this will be a permanent line extension, it should become (and remain) pretty easy to find. Look for it on Drizly or in your local liquor shop this month.