Sunday, January 28, 2018

Basil Hayden's Dark Rye

VITALS:
- $50
- 80 Proof
- NAS
- Kentucky/Canada

Okay, let me start off by saying that I'm generally not much of a fan of Basil Hayden's bourbon. The time I tried it way back when, it just didn't do much for me at all, and the brand has been off my radar since then. Beam then released the Basil Hayden's Rye, and given my prior experience with Basil Hayden's, as well as the fact that the rye wasn't very well received, it remained off my radar.

However, the Basil Hayden's Dark Rye, a 2017 release, caught my attention primarily due to what it is. In fact, going in, based on the description, I wasn't certain it would be good at all and thought there was a decent chance of it being awful. After all, the Dark Rye is Kentucky straight rye whiskey that is blended with Canada rye whiskey (perhaps the Alberta dark rye?). As if that weren't enough, they also blended it with port. So, unlike so many of the port-finished ryes that are out there, this was not finished in port barrels, but actually had the port added directly to the blend.

Accordingly, this kind of a cocktail rather than a rye (blended or not), although the amount of port is certainly minimal compared what a normal mixer in a cocktail might be. Per the bottle, they add "just a touch" of port. The result is, as expected, a very dark whiskey, with substantial red hues.

The nose is rich and fruity, definitely showing off the added port. The fruit note is lighter than expected, taking on a significant cherry quality. The low proof leaves zero burn on the nose, and what's left is delicious, warm and inviting.

Going in for my first sip, I held no expectations. I knew this was not going to taste like any rye I've had before, and I wasn't expecting it to. I went in open-minded, just hoping I liked it, and I was very pleasantly surprised. If I had any expectations, this would have exceeded them.

This is one of the best combinations of sweet and spicy I've ever tasted from a bottle. The sweet obviously comes from the port, which contributed rich and long-lasting flavors of plum and dark cherry. The velvety texture (I expected it to come across as more watered down) allowed these flavors to completely coat the mouth and seemingly linger forever. There was also an underlying unsweetened vanilla note that balanced perfectly with the port.  Towards the back end it had a nice, nutty note, like walnut, that worked really well with the vanilla and even light caramel notes to underscore the dominant port notes.

This really is a delicious pour that from the first sip reminded me of Thanksgiving. In fact, I first opened this bottle just before Thanksgiving, and it was my drink of choice for our first Thanksgiving celebration with some of our former neighbors (who also really enjoyed this!). It is sweet, but not too sweet, and is really a dangerous pour due to just how easy it is to drink. I found myself working through this bottle faster than I had ever intended.

Although it's certainly different, and far from a traditional rye, the Basil Hayden's Dark Rye makes no bones about what it is, and if you can get past the fact that it has the port directly added, certainly give this a try. It was surprisingly incredibly tasty.

Grade: A-

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