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Basil Hayden Has Brought Back Its Bourbon Aged in Smoke-Filled Barrels

Basil Hayden Has Brought Back Its Bourbon Aged in Smoke-Filled Barrels

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Two years ago, Jim Beam Small Batch Collection member brand Basil Hayden launched Subtle Smoke, a new bourbon that was finished in barrels seasoned with hickory wood smoke. Due to popular demand, this whiskey has just returned for a second round, and we have the details on its second coming.

Basil Hayden is beloved by some and ignored by others for basically the same reason—it’s a high-rye bourbon produced at the home of Jim Beam, the James B. Beam Distilling Co., that has had several brand extensions over the years but remains an 80-proof whiskey at its core. That is the minimum proof allowed to be called bourbon, and for some seasoned whiskey drinkers it’s just a little bit diluted and lacking in flavor. For many others, however, that lower proof means that Basil Hayden is a great introductory bourbon with a palate that is buttressed by the inclusion of more rye grain than usual (reportedly close to 30 percent), giving it an extra kick of spice and making the whiskey a great cocktail component.

However you feel about Basil Hayden, the brand has certainly taken some risks over the years by releasing interesting additions to the lineup, including Dark Rye (blended with Canadian whisky and port), Red Wine Cask Finish, Caribbean Reserve Rye (finished with black strap rum), and the whiskey in question, Subtle Smoke. Eighth generation Beam master distiller Freddie Noe was the force behind this bourbon, and instead of smoking the grain in the way distilleries like Sonoma Distilling or Iron Smoke are doing, he chose to finish the bourbon in smoke-seasoned barrels. That means aging regular Basil Hayden bourbon for six weeks in casks that were toasted and lightly charred before being pumped full of smoke created by igniting hickory-smoked wood chips.

When we first reported on this new bourbon back in 2022, I was pleasantly surprised with the result, noting that the classic Basil Hayden flavor profile is augmented by just a touch of savory smoke. There are notes of leather and chocolate on the nose, along with just a touch of the kind of smoke you might smell on your clothes the morning after enjoying a campfire. The palate has flavors like barbecue sauce, cherry, orange, and cinnamon, all underscored by, true to the whiskey’s name, some subtle smoke.

According to the brand, the original Subtle Smoke limited-edition release pulled in $1.9 million according to Nielsen Sales data over its first six months on liquor stores shelves, which explains why Beam decided to revisit this whiskey. This new release of Subtle Smoke is now available in limited numbers (SRP $50), so if you missed it the first time around, or if you have been eagerly waiting for it to come back, you can pick up a bottle at your local liquor store or at websites like ReserveBar.

Source: Robb Report

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