A Toasted Barrel Is Not What Basil Hayden Needs
Beam Suntory Clears New Basil Hayden Label Through TTB
There’s no denying that 2021 is clearly the year of the Toasted Barrel. After Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel launched in 2020, following the foot steps of releases like Old Forester 1910, it seems more and more distilleries are looking to diversify their portfolios to also include toasted finishes. Not long ago, the TTB submission for Wild Turkey One cleared, lending additional credence to the theory that we’ll see a whole lot more toasted finishes in 2021.
Well, that rumor isn’t going anywhere. Another label has cleared the TTB, this time an entry from Beam. Basil Hayden Toast is expected to be bottled at 40% ABV like each of the previous Basil Hayden releases, and doesn’t seem to carry an age statement, either.
Honestly, I didn’t hate the Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel. It wasn’t my favorite, but it had enough going for it to see the appeal. Heaven Hill doesn’t always hit a home run with their first release of anything (Larceny Barrel Proof fans know this well) but are extremely efficient at working out the kinks and dialing things in stat (Larceny Barrel Proof fans also know this well). As a result, I’m looking forward to ECTB Batch 2 when it arrives. I think 47% ABV is a great place to position it.
On the flip side, Basil Hayden Toast seems to be in a tough spot. Toasted barrels are exposed to much lower temperatures for longer periods of time. Independent Stave Company has an amazing write up on Toasted vs Charred that explains the difference, but the key takeaway is that toasted barrels have the potential to impart much more flavor. This works well for higher proof releases that can balance tannins and the ethanol content to deliver a rich, well, toasty bourbon.
Basil Hayden is neither of those things. It’s a soft, smooth, often considered “thin” bourbon that’s meant to be an easy drinker without any particular complexity. Giving Basil Hayden’s more tannin structure then diluting it all the way down to 40% ABV seems like a recipe for a bland, watery, tannic disaster.
Admittedly, I’m stoked to try Wild Turkey Master’s Keep ONE (that’s a story for a different day, but here’s David Jenning’s opinion in the meantime – which I enjoyed), so I don’t find toasted finishes to be universally lacking. We’ll definitely find out though if this hunch is well founded, or maybe I’m way off in the weeds.
Either way – you know we’ll snag a Basil Hayden Toast and give you a review, along with those of our aggregates. In the meantime, though – I’ll enjoy a Knob Creek and wait for release day.