I’ve gotten questions from many friends and co-workers about what bourbon they should buy for their friend/boyfriend/roommate for the holiday season. This is always a difficult thing to judge since some of the best wiskies don’t always make for the classiest gift, but on the other hand many of the gift-like bottles aren’t the most original or demonstrative of taste.
With that in mind, here’s my American Hooch 2008 Gift Guide to help you navigate your social relationships with a properly chosen bottle of alcohol.
The Mantle Piece Bourbon
This one is for that someone on your list who wants something to show off to folks stopping by over the holidays. Willett Family Pot Still Reserve is certainly a fine tasting bourbon, with notes of butterscotch, cherry-sweetness, and honey, but it is most impressive in its profile. Your receipient will not only be impressed with the pot still shaped bottle, but also the wonderfully gurgly noise it makes when you pour. I wrote about it here.
This one might be a little tougher to find, but it will make an immediate visual impression. It will also run you around $40.
Continue reading The American Hooch 2008 Gift Guide →
Basil Hayden’s is the other of Jim Beam’s top-shelf selection, along with Booker’s and Knob Creek which I’ve written about before. I’ve heard that BH is a lot smoother and gentler than those other two. That could be a good or a bad things depending on who’s saying it and what the occasion is, though I have to admit I prefer a bolder drink so I’m a little wary. On to the stats!
- 80 proof
- Made by the Jim Beam folks
Certainly the bottle reflects Basil Hayden’s relative lighness to an extent. Soft tones and carefully constructed curves contrast with Booker’s homemade feel and Knob’s bursting angularity. The labeling is actually pretty interesting. It consists of a smooth, brown paper tunic over the neck of the bottle and extending down the sides and belted by a band of wood and copper.
I like the consistent soft coloring and relatively minimal look, but the story about George Washington and the four-year-old state of Kentucky is a little schlocky. I suppose anyone who’s read this blog before could have seen that coming.
Basil Hayden’s immediately lets off a sweet aroma once it is poured. While strong, further inspection opens up tree bark and dry wheat, but remains powerfully candied all along. Candied wheat? Is that a thing?
On tasting, there is a quick hint of the explosiveness of Knob Creek, but it quickly fades into a strawberry mingled with a bit of spice. Toward the end there’s a slow burn of something like dry corn followed by a very clean and easy finish.
One thing that did surprise me here was the mouth feel – it was much bigger than I’d expect from the lighter end of the Beam small-batchers.
Basil Hayden’s was very pleasant. Just now I’ve poured myself another tasting, in fact. But ultimately it’s nothing to get excited about.
It would make an excellent introductory bourbon for the uninitiated or those used to lighter fare, but only if it weren’t so pricey. This will be nice to have around and contrast with some of the rest of my collection, but isn’t my favorite of its immediate family.