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Exclusive: Basil Hayden Is Releasing a Red Wine Cask-Finished Bourbon, and We’re the First to Try It

California wine, meet Kentucky bourbon.

Basil Hayden Red Wine Cask Finish Basil Hayden

There are a lot of new whiskey launches this fall to parse though, so we’re here to help you separate the wheated bourbon from the chaff. Robb Report got a first look at a new special release from James B. Beam Distilling Co. (the home of Jim Beam), the latest limited-edition bourbon from Basil Hayden.

Basil Hayden is part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection which, as we reported recently, is celebrating three decades since it was first introduced. The other brands in the collection include Knob Creek, Baker’s and Booker’s. But what makes Basil Hayden stand out is that it’s a high-rye bourbon that is always bottled at 80 proof, making the whiskey more accessible for some than its higher-ABV counterparts. There have been some interesting releases over the past few years, including the limited-edition Subtle Smoke, and the addition of Toast and Dark Rye to the catalogue. The latest to join this series of more experimental whiskeys is the new Red Wine Cask Finish.

This is not the first time a Jim Beam bourbon has received this type of treatment. Legent, for example, was finished in both red wine and sherry casks. But this is a different style and process. Eighth generation master distiller Freddie Noe, creator of the excellent Little Book blends, has taken regular Basil Hayden and blended it with bourbon that was partially aged in California red wine barrels. The results are immediately evident just by looking at the bourbon, which has a pleasant red hue indicative of this secondary maturation. “This has to do with the proportions which we are blending to create the finished product and the amount of time our bourbon spends in that secondary finishing stage,” Beam Suntory’s East Coast American whiskey ambassador Tim Heuisler told Robb Report. “Eighth generation distiller Freddie Noe looks after the entire aging process, utilizing techniques that have been passed down for generations to ensure the resulting whiskey is perfectly balanced. Freddie has been perfecting his skills with blending whiskeys with various projects at the distillery and this is another great example showcasing his abilities.

Noe envisioned this new whiskey as sort of an aperitif bourbon, but it would certainly work as an after-dinner sipper or even in a Manhattan. The classic nutty Beam profile leads the palate, followed by notes of vanilla, spice and a bit of cherry syrup. Then the dried fruits come into play, the result of the wine finish, with some stone fruit and custard notes. “With the debut of this new limited-edition expression, we further my grandfather, Booker Noe’s, mission for Basil Hayden to open people’s minds up to what bourbon can be,” said Noe in a statement. “We continue to reach new audiences and expand the boundaries of how and when bourbon can be consumed with the unexpected addition of a red wine cask finish.”

Basil Hayden Red Wine Cask Finish (SRP $59.99) launches this month, along with the annual release of Basil Hayden 10-Year, and will be available to purchase from online retailers and liquor stores. No word yet on what else Noe has in store for the brand, but we will bring you the news when we find out.

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