If you consider yourself a whiskey enthusiast who pays close attention to the intricacies of your favorite distilleries, then you’ve probably noticed a gradual shift towards malted rye in recent years. However, if you’re more of a beer connoisseur, you may have assumed that malted rye has always been a part of the distilling process, as beer is primarily brewed with malted grains. This distinction is particularly important in the world of rye whiskey, as traditional American ryes have always been made from unmalted rye grain, resulting in the spicy and dry profile we associate with this spirit today. However, distilleries are now increasingly turning to malting in order to transform the flavor profile of rye whiskey. This is evident in the newly announced Basil Hayden Malted Rye Whiskey from Jim Beam.
This new release is credited to Freddie Noe, the eighth-generation master in charge of innovation at Beam’s distilling operation. While some distilleries use a combination of traditional rye and malted rye, Noe chose to craft this whiskey exclusively from malted rye, resulting in a 100% malted rye mash bill. This departure from the traditional 51% Kentucky rye style allows the whiskey to showcase the unique flavor profile of malted rye without any other influences. Described as having “a more subtle, mellow spice with delicate sweet and floral notes,” this whiskey represents the refined side of rye.
It’s fitting that the Basil Hayden brand was chosen for this experiment, as it traditionally highlights Beam’s higher-rye bourbon mash bill. The company recommends enjoying this whiskey neat, which is understandable given its low 40% ABV (80 proof). Priced at $60 MSRP, it offers an interesting option for whiskey enthusiasts looking to explore the world of malted rye.
In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have mixed feelings about whiskeys that heavily rely on malted rye. My preference for rye whiskey was developed through exposure to high-rye brands with mash bills containing 95-100% rye from distilleries like MGP of Indiana and Alberta Distillers Ltd. As a result, I have always gravitated towards the bold, spicy, and potentially abrasive side of the grain. Rye whiskeys featuring a significant amount of malted rye tend to come across as sweeter to me, with a stronger emphasis on the grain itself, often with toasty or doughy flavors. Over time, I have actively sought out rye whiskeys that do not contain malted rye.
With that context in mind, let’s dive into the tasting experience of the Basil Hayden Malted Rye. On the nose, the whiskey offers a delicate impression of classic rye grain, with hints of pumpernickel, light honey, caraway, mixed peppercorn, and subtle florals reminiscent of lavender. Unlike what I’ve come to expect from malted barley, this nose doesn’t display significant malt sweetness or doughiness. It’s not an assertive profile, which is to be expected from any Basil Hayden whiskey, but the delicate presentation is quite enjoyable.
Moving on to the palate, this whiskey remains light and delicate, in line with the typical Basil Hayden style. The rye flavors are subtly herbaceous and grassy, with underlying notes of honey, light pine, and syrupy pears. It doesn’t possess the intense maltiness or bready character often found in malted rye whiskeys, even those that incorporate only a portion of malted rye. Instead, it feels like a subtle evolution of the traditional rye style. This is necessary for a premium brand like Basil Hayden, with its low proof point, as ease of drinking is paramount. While the character may not leap out of the glass, it delivers a pleasurable tasting experience.
In conclusion, the Basil Hayden Malted Rye represents a departure from the traditional rye whiskey profile, showcasing the more subtle and refined side of malted rye. While it may not align perfectly with my personal preferences, it offers a unique option for those looking to explore the nuances of this increasingly prominent ingredient in the distilling world. Ultimately, the true judge of this whiskey’s success will be the whiskey enthusiasts themselves, as they embark on their own tasting journey and discover whether it aligns with their own palates.
Title: The Unconventional Charm of Basil Hayden Malted Rye
Introduction: A Pleasant Little Diversion
Basil Hayden Malted Rye is an enigmatic whiskey that leaves many pondering its purpose. Known for its subtle and unassuming character, it fails to make a bold statement in classic cocktails, leaving enthusiasts questioning its potential. Neat drinking, as recommended by Beam, might be the answer. However, in a market where bolder and higher-value brands from Beam exist, this poses a challenge for Basil Hayden. Despite this, the whiskey does have a unique quality that sets it apart – a well-composed rye that offers a gentle introduction to the diverse flavors of malted rye.
The Dilemma: A Clash of Value Propositions
When faced with a bottle of Basil Hayden Malted Rye, the question that arises is, “What do I do with this?” This whiskey lacks the assertiveness required for classic cocktails, making it a puzzling choice for mixologists. Neat drinking seems like the logical solution, appreciating the whiskey’s nuances without dilution. Nevertheless, this approach contradicts the value proposition of Basil Hayden Malted Rye, as other bold and high-value options from Beam are readily available. In this regard, the whiskey finds itself in a precarious position, competing for attention in a crowded marketplace.
The Subtle Charm of Basil Hayden Malted Rye
Although it may not offer the same bang for your buck as a bottle of Knob Creek, Basil Hayden Malted Rye presents a concrete novel element that shouldn’t be overlooked. This well-composed rye whiskey possesses a unique and gentle character, making it an ideal choice for those seeking an unchallenging and approachable drinking experience. The inherent flavors of malted rye are artfully showcased in this expression, providing a gateway to an often underappreciated aspect of whiskey. It may not be the boldest or most economical choice, but it does have its charm.
Conclusion: A Whiskey Worth Exploring
In the realm of whiskey, Basil Hayden Malted Rye stands out as an unconventional choice. While it may not excel in every aspect, there is value to be found in its understated nature. As a rye that caters to those seeking a lighter introduction to the flavors of malted rye, it provides a distinct experience. Priced at $60 MSRP for a 750 ml bottle, it may not be the most cost-effective option, but it offers a touch of novelty that some whiskey enthusiasts may appreciate. As with any unique spirit, it’s worth exploring for those who enjoy venturing off the beaten path.
About the Author
Jim Vorel is a respected writer and connoisseur of both beer and liquor. With an affinity for discovering the finest drinks, he regularly shares his insights and expertise with readers. Follow him on Twitter for more intriguing stories and recommendations in the world of beverages.
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