photo by John Trump

An idea to gently introduce a novice whiskey drinker to bourbon has become no popular and repeated it’s probably best to call it a cliché.

Don’t think you like bourbon? Too harsh? Burns, you say?

Well, I — and many others — say, try Basil Hayden’s.

This 80-proof soft sipper from Beam Suntory is exceptionally smooth and mostly bereft of that traditional bourbon bite. Yet it’s creamy and complex, hinting of ripe fruit and the familiar caramel and vanilla.

This is a high-rye bourbon, aged for eight years, so we find it’s lightness counterintuitive.

Sarah Poole, an account manager for Beam Suntory in the Triad area of North Carolina, surmised BH gets its smooth character from a masterful interplay of corn and rye.

Speaking of which, Jim Beam introduced the Basil Hayden’s Rye earlier this year, and I finally got the chance to try it.

It’s exceptional, smooth like the bourbon but with a spicier bite and finish.

“One of the most perfect rye whiskeys I feel like I’ve ever tasted,” said Poole, who helped host the tasting at a Greensboro restaurant.

The rye is aged four years in 53-gallon barrels, she said, before it’s transferred to quarter barrels and left for another seven years.

It’s a limited release and, of course, going quickly. It runs around $50, but it’s definitely worth the small investment.