Basil Hayden’s is no stranger to rye. The distillery’s flagship bourbon whiskey differentiates itself via a high-rye mash bill that produces distinctively spicy bourbon, relatively speaking. Nor is Basil Hayden’s a novice at producing proper rye whiskey, having in the last few years turned out a handful of limited edition ryes alongside one—Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye—that lives in the brand’s permanent product range.
Basil Hayden’s limited edition 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey joins them as the oldest age-statement rye whiskey the distillery has ever released, but don’t let the extra time in the barrel or the additional dose of rye in the mash bill fool you into thinking it’s some kind of spice bomb. Bottled at 80 proof and described in brand literature with words like “approachable” and “welcoming,” this rye is mellow, smooth, and easy-drinking (for some, maybe too much so; more on that in a moment). It’s not really a rye for spirit-forward cocktails—it’s not quite punchy enough for that—but it’s entirely sippable, the rare rye that doesn’t even suggest it might require a splash of water or ice to temper the heat.
If we’re understanding this whiskey correctly, that’s entirely the point. Basil Hayden’s makes good whiskey, and good whiskey doesn’t have to be enigmatic or challenging. Its flagship bourbon, for instance, is not too hot (also bottled at 80 proof) and boasts a flavor profile that, though high in rye, is not excessively spicy or aggressively sweet. Balanced and easy, it doesn’t necessarily break barriers, but neither does anyone send it back to the bar. It’s simply enjoyable, performing exactly as it was designed.
The brand’s new 10-year-old rye reflects this approach to approachability. On the nose, there’s plenty of oak and vanilla with some toasty notes of rye and a touch of corn sweetness, while the palate is largely caramel, toffee, and oak notes giving way to warm cinnamon, allspice, and black pepper—no real surprises, in other words. That said, it’s warm, light, balanced, and completely drinkable because there’s really not a fault to find with it even if it doesn’t exactly shatter expectations in any meaningful way.
Clearly that’s not the intent here, and for some devoted whiskey aficionados that may raise hackles. At $70 it’s not exactly the most affordable rye on the store shelf, and some rye lovers may want more in terms of proof, or a more aggressive flavor profile. That’s fine, and if that’s the case, this bottle may not be for you.
But for a lot of whiskey drinkers this bottle will slot nicely into the home bar, particularly for those who enjoy their whiskey on the milder side. At 80 proof, it’s never going to drink the same was as the higher-ABV expressions with which it shares a shelf. The thoughtful, well-mannered nice guy in a crowd of louder, brasher cousins, Basil Hayden’s 10 Year Old Rye reminds us that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being “approachable.”
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