Look, I’ve never been a huge fan of Basil Hayden. It’s never been bad, but it’s never been worth it in my opinion either. Depending on location, it’s a $35+ bottle that comes in at 80 proof and lacks any kind of special quality. Basil Hayden shares a mashbill with Old Grand-Dad, so it’s really a more aged, lower proof of it. I tried Basil Hayden Dark Rye and was disappointed, so I wasn’t too eager to try Basil Hayden Toast. That was until I realized basil Hayden was trying out a new mash bill.
While I was hesitant to buy a full 750ml bottle, I figured I owed them a fair chance. And, even with my doubts about BH, I’ve never disliked their whiskey, it’s just never seemed like a good value buy. In this Basil Hayden Toast Review, we’ll see if things have changed.
Basil Hayden History
Basil Hayden is a Jim Beam product that serves as an older version of Old Grand-Dad. The brand itself wasn’t created until 1992, but it dates back to the 1840’s when Meredith Basil Hayden began crafting high-rye whiskey.
The success Meredith found allowed Raymond Basil Hayden to create Old Grand-Dad some 40 years later. They still operate and sell their whiskey today under the beam umbrella. In 1992, Basil Hayden, originally Basil Hayden’s, was released as an older, smoother version of Old Grand-Dad.
Basil Hayden Toast Overview
- Spirit: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
- Owned By: Beam Suntory
- Distilled By: James B. Beam Distilling Co.
- Aged: NAS (finished in toasted barrels)
- ABV: 40%, 80 proof
- Mashbill: 63% corn, 27% brown rice, 10% malted barley
- Price: $50
There’s a couple significant things to discuss in here, but we’re going to start by answering, what is Basil Hayden Toast?
Barrel Finished + Mashbill
The two primary aspects of Basil Hayden Toast that set it apart from other BH whiskeys are aging and mashbill.
Basil Hayden has always used a high-rye mashbill consisting of 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley; however, Basil Hayden Toast has replaced rye with brown rice. Rye is known for adding spice to whiskey, so we’re expecting a little less pepper on the toast than their standard bourbon.
Basil Hayden originally donned an 8-yr age statement but has moved to NAS whiskey, so we don’t really know how long this whiskey has spent in barrels. What we do know is that the whiskey goes through a second barreling in newly toasted barrels. We don’t know the exact time it’s barrel finished for, but I’ve seen reports of 2 months.
Essentially, Basil Hayden Toast replaces rye for brown rice and is barrel finished in toasted barrels.
Price + Proof
These are the two aspects of BH that haven’t really changed, and they are why BH gets so much hate from whiskey fans.
Starting with the proof. It is 80 proof, like all the other whiskey in their line-up, which turns off a lot of whiskey connoisseurs who like cask strength whiskey, or even 90 proof. 80 proof whiskey really sets itself up as beginner/intro whiskey.
There’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself, but when you add the price-tag with it, it becomes more of a problem. Standard BH Bourbon may be a little cheaper than Toast, but not too many intro-level whiskey drinkers want to pay $50 a bottle. More serious drinkers don’t want to spend $50 on an 80 proof bottle either. What do I know, though? Basil Hayden is certainly a popular whiskey.
Basil Hayden Toast Tasting Notes
Perhaps Basil Hayden Toast is different. it’s still 80 proof, but maybe it has a little extra ummphh in there. I suppose we’ll find out as it’s time to pour myself a dram.
Nose: oak, vanilla, brown sugar, citrus
Palate: Very easy, not much to it. Round, a little dusty. Oak, vanilla.
Finish: quick. almost nothing there. Vanilla and some toasted oak.
This might be the easiest/smoothest Basil Hayden whiskey I’ve had. There’s some of that toasted oak/charred oak on the nose, which is to be expected. After that it’s vanilla and brown sugar or caramelized sugar. And there’s a citrus undertone to the nose.
The palate is a little more round and dusty than your standard BH, which is likely due to the use of rice instead of rye. It’s super easy and friendly, but there’s just not much there.
The finish is just as easy. There’s absolutely zero burn. Vanilla fades into a toasted, dry oak.
Basil Hayden Toast is a smooth, friendly, easy whiskey to sip on. In fact, it’s one of the smoothest, friendliest, and easiest whiskeys I’ve had. That’s precisely why so many people don’t like Basil Hayden, and won’t like Basil Hayden Toast.
Smooth, friendly, and easy often come at a cost. The price to pay is proof, character, uniqueness, complexity, depth, etc. If those are things you look for in a whiskey, do not buy this. I’ll pour this for friends of guests who don’t really like whiskey or don’t drink it neat/on the rocks.
There are two things that are required for me to recommend Basil Hayden Toast, or BH in general. You have to want smooth, friendly, easy whiskey, AND you have to be okay with paying for a $50 bottle. If that sounds like you, then by all means, buy yourself Basil Hayden Toast. If not, stay away.
Basil Hayden Toast Summary
Basil Hayden Toast is strongly critiqued by fans of whiskey, me included. It’s low proof and expensive. I think of it in one of two ways. It’s a premium intro whiskey. Or, it’s a really smooth whiskey for those who aren’t whiskey snobs, just want something to sip on, and don’t mind paying the extra dollars. Either way, Basil Hayden has carved out its fair share of the market.
I will always, always, gladly drink Basil Hayden Toast, especially in any social setting. However, I will not be spending $50 on a bottle again. If I were given $50 to spend on a bottle of bourbon right now, I’d choose Chattanooga Whiskey 111.