Head of the Bourbon Family
I sometimes like to play a little trivia at the bar. I’ll pull down, say, an Old Grand-Dad and ask if anyone knows the name of the man on the bottle. It’s not often that someone is able to get it right, so I offer this little bourbon tidbit now. The man on the bottle, in this case, is Basil Hayden.
Basil Hayden moved from Maryland to the Kentucky territory in the late eighteenth century, he was part of the first Catholic Church in Kentucky, and was an avid farmer distiller. He is credited with being one of the first to add cereal grains to his corn whiskey. Even to this day, Old Grand-Dad and Basil Hayden’s have some of the highest rye content allowable and can still be classified as a bourbon.
Recently I had the chance to sit down and drink some beer and whiskey with Max Wastler from the great blog All Plaidout and the brains behind the super cool Basil Haydens site. We talked for a while, both sharing embarrassing stories of drinking way too much bourbon in our youth. But I really wanted to get to know a little bit more about who Basil Hayden was. Max shared some of his knowledge with me.
Max shared a great story with me about Booker Noe, the longtime master distiller at Jim Beam and truly a pioneer and visionary in the bourbon industry. But like all these visionaries and pioneers we talk about, they are all just good-hearted gentlemen who just love whiskey. Max told me that when Booker would sip on a whiskey that wasn’t one of his, he would identify not by the company or brand on the bottle, but by the person responsible for making it. Fro example if he was drinking something from Heaven Hill, he would call it “Parker’s” or something from Wild Turkey, he would call it “Jimmy’s”. So it seems only fitting that after Jim Beam acquired the brand “Old Grand-Dad” from National Distillers in the 80s, they would put out a small batch version and name it for the person responsible for it, Basil Hayden.
Old Grand-Dad Bonded is still one of my favorites on the Whiskey for Drinking list, with it’s full rye heavy flavor – bottled at 100 proof, it is spicy with an unmistakable sweet bourbon finish. The small batch 80 proof Basil Hayden’s only accentuates the sweet aspect of it but while still maintaining enough spice and character to live up to it’s namesake. I hope you enjoy them both as much as I do.
- Phil Olson