The release is the first 100% American rye whiskey from the Beam Suntory portfolio.
Tomorrow, the James B. Beam Distilling Co. will formally introduce a new permanent addition to its portfolio: The Basil Hayden Malted Rye. Like the rest of the lineup from the beloved brand, it’s been crafted by eighth generation Master Distiller Freddie Noe, who is also responsible for Booker’s, Little Book, and more.
Fans of Basil Hayden will find a familiar sense of delicacy to the spirit, which is not always something that’s associated with rye whiskey. This, Noe explains, was a conscious decision. “We noticed that while there’s a lot of variation in the category, brands continue to lean into the spiciness of the spirit with none catering to those who may just be beginning their journey into the category. So in true Basil Hayden fashion, we wanted to create an expression that explores the more refined side of rye.”
In order to achieve this, Noe and his team decided to work with a 100% malted rye mash bill, which allowed them to craft a whiskey whose spice notes — classically one of the defining characteristics of rye — were softened and rendered more elegant through the malting. This lends the finished product more sweetness and floral lift than spicy rye typically focuses on, and Noe believes it will introduce “consumers to something unlike they’ve ever tried before.”
In an exclusive pre-announcement tasting, I found the Basil Hayden Malted Rye to be a terrifically elegant whiskey that shows a side of rye that’s rarely the focus. Aromas of honey-drizzled graham crackers, shortbread biscuits, warm butter, and sweet cereal notes lead to a lovely, surprisingly delicate palate with flavors of lemon, devil’s food cake, honeysuckle, lemon blossom, whole cloves, and the subtle sweet spice of vanilla and cinnamon. It’s a unique and highly successful expression of rye that Noe predicts will not just appeal to fans of rye and Basil Hayden in general, but also serve as an excellent point of entry to whiskey lovers looking to delve into the world of rye. “We absolutely see the expression blazing a trail as it explores an entirely new flavor to the realm,” Noe says.
The timing for the release of this new whiskey is very smart: Rye as a whole has been on a tear in recent years, and consumer familiarity with it has been growing. After hitting a trough in the 1980s and 1990s, rye has been on a significant upswing. Noe cited statistics from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), which show that case volumes have grown by 1,275% since 2009. “I think the crux of this was the growth of the mixology space, and bartenders’ desire to use rye whiskey on-premise to mix into their classic cocktails, such as a Manhattan or a Sazerac,” Noe explains. “From there, the consumer demand became the catalyst to a rye resurgence…the number of distilleries opening across the US grew from less than ten a decade ago to over 500 today.”
With Basil Hayden Malted Rye, consumers have not just a new, exciting rye whiskey from an iconic brand, but a deliciously elegant expression of the category in general. It’s also the first 100% American rye whiskey from the broader Beam Suntory, Inc. portfolio. Standard 750ml bottles will hit shelves at 80 proof – like all of the whiskeys from Basil Hayden – and with a suggested retail price of $59.99
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