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It’s not every day that the company behind the world’s best-selling bourbon—James B. Beam Distilling Co.—heads in the direction of the unexpected, but that’s just what’s happened with the launch of Basil Hayden Malted Rye, a whiskey made from 100-percent malted rye.
Innovation is anything but essential for American whiskey’s first family, but that doesn’t seem to bother eighth-generation master distiller Freddie Noe, who crafted Basil Hayden Malted Rye. Since last year’s release of Basil Hayden Toast, the experiment-minded whiskey maker has seemingly been using the light-bodied bourbon brand as his own whiskey CERN, crafting expressions that push the boundaries of what we’d expect from Kentucky whiskey.
While this is by no means the first whiskey made from malted rye—San Francisco’s Old Potrero and Denmark’s Stauning each make their own—it’s a bit of a rare bird for Jim Beam and Kentucky, who generally make their ryes from unmalted grain and from a mashbill that floats much closer to the edge of the legal limit, which requires 51 percent rye.
The seeming goal here was to produce a rye that was more refined. To do so, Noe turned towards whiskey’s Caledonian roots. He malted the rye like Scotch distilleries do with barley, allowing it to germinate and produce enzymes before drying it out to stop the process.
In the case of Basil Hayden Malted Rye, it created a subtler, mellower spice with delicate sweet and floral notes that are first perceptible on the nose. Next, soft notes of vanilla and toasted rye bread arrive, followed by a light finish of chocolate and warm spice.
“We are continuing to challenge perceptions with our newest permanent expression, Basil Hayden Malted Rye, introducing an entirely new flavor profile within the whiskey category,” said Noe. “It delivers a more refined side, an unexpected softness and approachability, creating a new way to experience rye”.[$60; nestorliquor.com]