Review: Basil Hayden’s New “Toast” Plays With a Surprising Ingredient

Hint: In spite of the name, rye is off the table.

August 5, 2021 4:20 am
Basil Hayden Toast and two glasses on whiskey on a table. Toast is Basil Hayden's first new permanent expression in four years.
Toast is Basil Hayden's first new permanent expression in four years.
Basil Hayden

What we’re drinking: Basil Hayden Toast, a new and permanent edition to the whiskey brand’s line-up (and their first new permanent release since 2017)

Where it’s from: While usually rockin’ a bit more rye in their mash bill, Basil Hayden’s is still the most approachable small-batch whiskey in Beam Suntory’s portfolio. Note the “usually” here, as that’s important.

Why we’re drinking this: “I’m really picking up the rye in this,” I said two weeks ago when I tasted a sneak peek of Basil Hayden Toast, the creation of eighth-generation distiller Freddie Noe. 

Oops. The Toast gets its name from a secondary toasted barrel finish — which isn’t necessarily a new thing in the world of brown spirits. But the less publicized and far most interesting aspect of the new whiskey is that the mash bill has quite a bit of brown rice in lieu of rye.

“That imparts a hint of sweetness and a touch less spice,” as Tim Heuisler, Beam Suntory American Whiskey Ambassador, tells us. “A portion of Basil Hayden Toast is aged and finished in charred barrels; however, the bourbon is unique in that a secondary level-one char toasted barrel finish is also used in the process.”

Freddie Noe, the distiller, had been experimenting with brown rice bourbon before, and Jim Beam did release a Brown Rice Bourbon years ago as part of its Signature Craft line, but this is the first time it’s been featured in a Basil Hayden expression. 

A glass of Basil Hayden Toast in front of a blurry background of NYC
Even with a unique mashbill, Toast remains as approachable as any Basil Hayden release
Kirk Miller

How it tastes: At 80 proof, this isn’t going to set your mouth on fire. Like most Basil Hayden, this is approachable and gentle.

Toasted grains and oak on the nose, a surprising initial spiciness on the mouth with some caramel notes, and a bit of vanilla on the (dry) finish. It’s a little sweet and a bit oaky — and oddly, if you like that rye element in Basil Hayden, you’re not gonna miss it here. 

Overall, this seems ideal for cocktails, particularly ones where you want to shine a light on the other ingredients and not just get a whiskey kick.

Fun fact: If you know the Basil Hayden packaging (mainly that big paper label), Toast marks the beginning of a change across the line. The monogrammed belt is more forward in the design, a nod to the metal hoops that encircle bourbon barrels. 

Where to buy it: Starting this week Basil Hayden Toast is available nationwide for $49.99.


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