Last week, I went to one of my two favorite liquor stores. It's weird. I almost never go there because, although it is relatively close to my house, I have to go a little out of my way to get there. Plus there have been more than a few occasions where I went in for a six pack of beer and walked out having spent $150 when I got the beer and an extra bottle or two of whiskey that I just couldn't live without.
While my last trip there didn't end in me spending quite so much, I did walk out with a whiskey that I hadn't planned on buying when I went in. And boy, is this whiskey a controversial one. At least if you judge by the Twitter replies I got when I mentioned that I'd be reviewing it. I almost never get people telling me anything about a whiskey when I pre-announce a review, but this time I got quite a few, and they had me joyfully dreading my upcoming tasting. I like tasting bad whiskey almost as much as I enjoy drinking good whiskey.
Here are a few of my favorites. I love conversations about whiskey.
@OBGyeayouknowme sent me a yawn gif (which I recognize from somewhere but can't remember where and it has been bugging me ever since).
@BourbonFanboy told me it had "notes of grass and misery." (I like this one, it's clever.)
@ryewhiskeylover told me to take it back and then buy a Booker's Rye. (ummm...cool? Show me an overpriced unicorn and I'll...still never spend $300 on a whiskey).
And then I had the distinct honor of being screamed at by a dude who I blocked after about the third post in what may have been an epic Twitter rant. It started with the statement of it being shit, moved into telling me to F*** my review because it is the worst rye this person had ever had.
But hey, I'm not going to let one angry guy, and a bunch of amusing ones tell me what to do. I buy whiskey for me, but also for you. If it's bad, then you will know not to buy it. And if it's good? Well, then I have something tasty to drink. We all win.
So...were they right?
Basil Hayden's Rye Whiskey
Purchase info: $44.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Blue Max, Burnsville, MN
Details: 40% ABV, 2017 Release. Noticeable lack of the word "straight" on the label.
Nose: Fresh cut grass, spearmint, citrus and a gentle spice.
Mouth: Grassy with spearmint, black pepper, and oak.
Finish: Spicy but short with lingering baking spice and oak.
Thoughts: Well, BourbonFanboy was half right, it certainly was grassy. I tasted almost no misery though.
But seriously, this reminds me a lot of Old Overholt. It's better than Old Overholt but similar. And the similarity isn't terribly surprising. Basil Hayden could be called a premium-priced version of Old GrandDad so why shouldn't Basil Hayden Rye be a premium-priced version of Old Overholt? Like Old Overholt, this works ok in a Manhatten if you cut down the amount of vermouth you use. Now, I don't mind Old Overholt, but as a $45 product, I find this to be a dud of a rye.
One of the thoughts I had while tasting this is that this is not a product that was put out with me in mind. I'm an experienced whiskey enthusiast with a well-developed palate. Basil Hayden's Bourbon is a great bourbon for the bourbon novice. Someone who is looking for a step up, but hasn't quite developed the palate for high proof whiskey. My wife was just such a person for a long time. Now she loves Old GrandDad 114 instead. Basil Hayden's Rye seems like the same thing. If you are new to rye, this would be a fine step up from Old Overholt and an ok example of the non-MGP style of rye.
So here is my verdict: if you are a big Basil Hayden fan, give this a try. If, like many, you find Basil Hayden to be too overpriced and too low proof, then give this a hard pass.
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