Bourbon mashbills are always dominated by corn—at minimum, 51 percent—with rye or wheat as the typical backing grains, and a little malted barley as well. Occasionally all four grain varieties might feature, or the mashbill may include malted rye or a specialty malt in addition to malted barley. But the latest bourbon from Basil Hayden incorporates a very unusual grain choice: brown rice. The new expression is called Basil Hayden Toast. It features a toasted barrel finish, something that’s become more popular among bourbon distillers in recent years.
All bourbon is aged in new charred oak barrels, which gives the whiskey its characteristic wood-forward flavors like vanilla and caramel. Implementing a toasted barrel for secondary maturation yields sweeter flavors, as toasting brings out more sugars from the oak.
The core Basil Hayden bourbon is made with a high-rye mashbill—63 percent corn, 27 percent rye, and 10 percent malted barley—but the new release substitutes brown rice for rye in an undisclosed amount. The liquid is initially aged in level four char barrels, with a portion finished in the toasted barrels, then blended back in with the core brown rice bourbon. The proportions of the blend are also undisclosed but avid fans may notice an extra sweetness and milder spice character in Basil Hayden Toast.
This isn’t the first foray into brown rice bourbon for the James B. Beam Distilling Company, whose Clermont, Kentucky, distillery makes Basil Hayden. In 2014, Jim Beam released an 11-year-old brown rice bourbon as part of its Signature Craft line. According to eighth-generation distiller Freddie Noe, who created Basil Hayden Toast, the distillery continued producing the brown rice mashbill after that limited edition—and he may be using more of the liquid in an upcoming release. (Our money’s on the next batch of Little Book, Noe’s annual blend that showcases unique liquids from the Beam warehouses.) Noe’s goal with Basil Hayden Toast was to carry on the legacy of bourbon discovery started by his grandfather, master distiller Booker Noe.
Basil Hayden Toast is a new, permanent expression for the lineup, and debuts with an updated look: Gone is the crinkly foil cap, replaced by a spiffy wooden topper and gold-embossed neck label. The monogrammed “belt” that recalls barrel hoops has also gotten a makeover, with a wider copper band than before. And the whiskey’s actual name has been tweaked—from Basil Hayden’s, with an apostrophe-s, to simply Basil Hayden. The new name and aesthetic will be rolling out across the lineup in the coming months.
Concurrent with the launch of Basil Hayden Toast, the brand is running a contest with design studio Fort Standard. One winner will be chosen to level up their home entertainment game with a custom oak home bar. Interested fans should follow @basilhaydens on Instagram for information on how to enter.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking to pick up a bottle of Basil Hayden Toast, it’s hitting shelves now, priced at $50. One thing hasn’t changed: Like all whiskies in the Basil Hayden range, considered the ideal “starter bourbon” among Beam’s Small Batch Collection, it’s bottled at a gentle 40 percent ABV.Get it
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