By John Trump
I drink my whiskey straight, sans ice or water, just about always.
Sometimes marrying a bit of water or a small cube with cask-strength offerings, such as Booker’s or Rare Breed, not only opens the whiskey but also makes for a smoother sipper. The higher the proof the better it will stand up in a cocktail.
Some whiskies, though, are just too smooth to ruin by splashing in water or ice. Pour most Irish whiskies into that category.
Basil Hayden’s is another such example, the paradigm of an introductory bourbon, from the Beam Suntory family. A Basil’s Hayden’s Rye — also exceptionally smooth with a hint of a bite — followed the signature small batch bourbon, which, in turn, was followed by Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye, a blend of Kentucky straight rye whiskey and Canadian rye with a splash of California port.
The latest limited-edition expression — which the distiller graciously provided to me — is Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye, designed, a news release says, to offer whiskey fans the “best of both worlds” — “an intriguing blend of two Kentucky straight rye whiskies complemented by two Kentucky straight bourbon whiskies.”
Specifically, five-year-old straight rye, seven-year-old “high-rye” straight rye, 13-year-old straight bourbon and six-year-old straight bourbon.
“As the majority of the blend, the rye whiskies capture the signature spiciness of the rye grain at the initial sip while the bourbons bring rich caramel and brown sugar notes, along with a smooth, balanced finish. The result is a wholly unique whiskey that remains approachable to discover at 80 proof.”
It’s approachable for sure, and maybe too much so for drinkers who want more spice and rye burn.
Still, it’s a wonderful whiskey, with a bit of woodiness on the nose and palette accompanied by some caramel and warm honey. I appreciate how Beam has taken Basil Hayden’s and, intentionally or not, continued to craft iterations of the smooth whiskey. These new offerings make long-time fans happy but also initiates novices and the cocktail crowd to the delicious world of straight, unadulterated whiskey.