In the amazing and still missed TV show Justified, Raylan Givens gives one of the best lines of all time:
“If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you're the asshole.”
So when I noticed that the neighbor dog, who I love dearly, was one of the many things that was irritating me, I realized that today I was “the asshole." I had the brief thought that I should just take a break from work and write tonight’s post on the spot. Asshole seemed like the right frame of mind to be in for tonight’s whiskey. But then I remembered a line from His Holiness the Dalai Lama’ March 7th, 2014 address to the US Senate (you’ve probably seen this as inspirational #content on Instagram or Facebook numerous times):
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
This is a very poetic and less crude version of the mantra I live by: “Don’t be a dick.” Yes, I just compared myself to both the Dalai Lama and to Raylan Givens. No, I do not feel bad about it.
So I decided to put off writing tonight’s post until my frame of mind was more amenable to being kind. I’m sorry. I’m sure that one would have been much funnier.
Basil Hayden’s 10 Year Old
Purchase Info: $59.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Viking Liquor Barrel, Prior Lake, MN
Details: 40% ABV. 10 year age statement
Nose: Green apple Jolly Rancher candy, cinnamon, spearmint.
Mouth: Gentle. This is an easy one to hold in your mouth to try to tease out all the flavor notes. I got Custard, mint, cinnamon, and maybe some oak if I’m feeling generous.
Finish: Gentle and on the shorter side of medium. I get mint, spice and some oak.
Thoughts: This bourbon is fine. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this except the price. This is a perfectly acceptable $25-30 bourbon. The travesty is that it sells for twice that.
In the past, I have excused the price of the original Basil Hayden. I had the thought that it was less of a cash grab for underproofed bourbon and more a brilliant way to get new bourbon drinkers into the fold. Knowing, from my own experiences that people new to any liquor category, at least those that don’t live on the bottom shelf, want “something good” to try out and also knowing that for most uniformed people “something good” actually means “something with a pretty bottle that has a bit of a higher price tag,” it stands to reason that this new-to-bourbon person might grab a bottle of super gentle Basil Hayden with it’s higher price and pretty bottle. Then after trying it—and not being scared off by the “burn”—maybe find they enjoy it. And then eventually move on to real bourbon.
And that probably worked when there weren’t so many crap bourbons in pretty bottles on your local shelf with a price tag over $50. These days, original Basil Hayden can be one of the less expensive of the “pretty bottle crowd.” I saw it on sale for less than $30 as I was researching its local price tonight and have seen it that low (and bought it) in the past. So I thought Beam was reacting to the changing market by correcting the price downward. With the recent brand expansions, we have seen that is not the case. Original Basil Hayden may be cheaper these days, but all the new ones that share its name are not. And the worst offender is this 10 year old version. Like I said earlier, this is a perfectly acceptable bourbon. In fact, I wish more of the Old Grand Dad line had this kind of barrel influence on it. But the flavor is comparable to Buffalo Trace or maybe Henry McKenna Bottled in Bond. Notice I said flavor, not heat or complexity. This suffers from the same issue that Original Basil Hayden’s has: it’s too gentle and low proof for the price, but this doesn’t have the excuse of being a “gateway” bourbon.
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