Basil Hayden Just Dropped an Unusually Soft and Sweet Rye

Basil Hayden, part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection, just announced the addition of yet another whiskey to its lineup. But this one isn’t a bourbon—it’s a new rye whiskey made from an unusual mashbill of 100 percent malted rye grain.

There are certainly some other rye whiskeys available made from malted rye grain out there including expressions from Kentucky’s New Riff Distilling and Old Potrero in San Francisco, and even Stauning from Denmark has a rye made from malted rye and malted barley. But this mashbill is quite unusual for the James B. Beam Distilling Co., the home of the best-selling bourbon Jim Beam. The rye whiskey made at Beam is usually made from a Kentucky-style mashbill of somewhere just over the legally required 51 percent rye (unmalted), with the rest being corn and barley. For this whiskey, Beam malted the rye like a scotch distillery would do to its barley, allowing it to germinate and produce enzymes before drying it out to stop the process.

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It seems that Basil Hayden has become a bit of a testing ground for eighth-generation master distiller Freddie Noe’s ideas (he’s the son of Beam master distiller Fred Noe and grandson of Booker Noe, who created the Small Batch Collection). Other expressions added to the lineup over the past few years include Subtle Smoke (finished in smoked barrels) and Dark Rye (a blend of Kentucky rye, Canadian rye, and port). “Basil Hayden continues to push boundaries in the tradition of my grandfather Booker Noe,” said Noe in a statement. “We are continuing to challenge perceptions with our newest permanent expression, Basil Hayden Malted Rye, introducing an entirely new flavor profile within the whiskey category. It delivers a more refined side, an unexpected softness and approachability, creating a new way to experience rye.”

Basil Hayden is generally known for its 80-proof, easy-drinking, high-rye bourbon, which makes a new release like this all the more interesting. The use of malted rye, according to the brand, is supposed to result in a softer, more mellow spice with floral notes, and we got to sample the whiskey to see if that is the case. Malted Rye is a light copper-brown, with a strong fruity nose characteristic of other 100 percent rye whiskeys. The palate is softer and sweeter than you might expect, with notes of orange, vanilla, nutmeg, and berry. Without tasting this side-by-side with a Basil Hayden whiskey made from 100 percent un-malted rye, it’s difficult to say exactly how the malting affected the flavor. But it’s a nice whiskey nonetheless that would certainly work well in cocktails, and yes, it’s bottled at 80 proof, which this particular Beam brand will never deviate from.

Basil Hayden Malted Rye is available now (SRP $60) from online retailers like Total Wine, and at your local liquor store.

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