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Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Bourbon, Kentucky Add to ...

  • Rating 92
  • Price $51.70

First released in 1991, this was a pioneering brand in the small-batch bourbon movement that spawned today’s explosion. It’s named after a man from Maryland who settled in Kentucky in 1785 and donated land for the first Catholic Church in the state, which makes it a fine dram for those still toasting Pope Francis, the Church’s first shepherd from the New World. Hayden was a distiller and was honoured by his grandson, also a distiller, when the latter created the brand Old Grand-Dad, adorned with grandpa’s image on the label. Jim Beam, which took over Old Grand-Dad, put a name to a face with Basil Hayden’s, a whisky based on a recipe from the late 18th century. There’s lots of rye in the mash along with the requisite corn that always constitutes the majority grain in bourbon. But this is one smooth eight-year-old, with ample vanilla, honey and fruit carried on a 40-per-cent-alcohol frame. It’s the lightest in Jim Beam’s small-batch portfolio, which also includes robust Knob Creek and powerful Booker’s. “Canadian whisky lovers gravitate to it because of the rye and the brightness,” Fred Noe III, Jim Beam’s great-grandson and the company’s master distiller, told me recently. It also makes a very fine Manhattan. $49.95 in B.C., $50.50 in Quebec.

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