How Basil Hayden Smiled His Way Into Bourbon Royalty | The Well


Welcome to this edition of The Well, where we uncork the barrels of history to reveal the spirits and stories that have shaped today’s favorite pours. First up: Basil Hayden’s—the lightest body in the Beam small batch collection, but with a history that’s anything but lightweight.

The Story of Basil Hayden

Imagine this: Maryland, 1660s. A time of religious strife and a family fleeing persecution not with silence, but with barrels and bravado. Enter Basil Hayden Sr., a man whose Catholic roots ran as deep as his future stakes in Kentucky soil. Basil wasn’t just a settler; he was a trailblazer who supplied the Revolutionary War with more than just courage—he supplied barrels of provisions that surely helped lift spirits.

Fast forward to 1785. Our hero, now older, bolder, and possibly wiser, leads over a hundred parishioners through the rugged Wilderness Road to Kentucky—soon to become the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” Here, the Hayden family not only plants roots but also plants the seeds for the first Catholic church west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Now, let’s stir the pot a bit. It’s 1885, and Basil’s grandson, Raymond B. Hayden, is about to honor his granddad in the most enduring way possible—by founding a distillery and naming his whiskey “Old Grand-Dad” with a label featuring Basil’s beaming face, eventually evolving to include that iconic shot glass in hand.

Why the smirk, you ask? Perhaps it’s the mash bill—rich with high rye content, reminiscent of Basil’s own 1788 recipe, making it distinctively bold, yet smoothly approachable at 80 proof. This bottle isn’t just a drink; it’s a nod to a pioneer who crafted the high rye character like a true artist.

Tasting Notes

Proof: 80

Color: Golden amber

Aroma: Spice, tea, hint of peppermint

Taste: Spicy, peppery, honey, light-bodied, gentle bite

Finish: Dry & clean

Why I Love Basil Hayden

  • Its light body belies a complexity that makes it both a perfect introduction for bourbon newbies and a respected choice for connoisseurs.
  • Versatility. It’s perfect for cocktails, on the rocks, or neat.

Ryan McCann
Growth & Marketing, Saucey

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