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Basil Hayden's is the lightest bodied bourbon whiskey in the family of Jim Beam small batch bourbons. It is 80 proof in contrast with its three sibling brands of higher concentration (Knob Creek, Booker's, and Baker's).

Basil Hayden is named in honor of Basil Hayden, Sr. Hayden was a Maryland Catholic who led a group of twenty five Catholic families from Maryland into what is now Nelson County, Kentuckymarker (near Bardstownmarker) in 1785. This area is home to many of the famous bourbon labels, including Jim Beam. There Hayden donated the land for the first Catholic church west of the Alleghenies and the first Catholic church in what is now the state of Kentucky.

Hayden was also an accomplished distiller and used a larger amount of rye in his mash than in some other bourbons. Later, Hayden's grandson founded a distillery in Nelson County and named his label in honor of his pioneer grandfather. That label was "Old Grand-Dad". The picture on the bottle is copied from a rendering of Basil Sr.'s likeness. When Beam Industries introduced their "small batch" collection, among the four was "Basil Hayden's", which supposedly uses a mash similar to that originally utilized by Hayden back in 1792.

Hayden's family can be traced back to England (Norfolk) to the period shortly after the Norman Conquest. One ancestor, Simon de Heydon, was knighted by Richard the Lionheart in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade in the 1190s. His son, Thomas de Heydon, was made Justice Itinerant of Norfolk by Henry III. Around 1400, another ancestor, Francis de Heydon, was granted "The Grove"--a large estate in Watford (Hertfordshire), about twenty miles northwest of London, for his father Sir Richard de Heydon's services in the French Wars, where Sir Richard perished.

The Grove was eventually transferred around 1602, and the Heydons within two generations emigrated to the Virginia Colony in the 1660s, as Oliver Cromwell had made England most inhospitable to Catholics. Francis Hayden, Basil's great-grandfather and the first Heydon (now switching the Hayden), quickly moved from Virginia to Maryland in 1678, settling in St. Mary's County on St. Clement's Bay, where the family remainded until Basil led his band of Catholic families into present-day Nelson County, Kentucky. During the American Revolution, Basil supplied provisions to the Colonial Army.

Popular culture

  • In the Friends episode 'The One with the Girl from Poughkeepsie', Chandler Bing is bribed by a co-worker with some "8 year old small-batch Basil Hayden's", and is enthusiastic about trying it even though he has no idea what it is.
  • The Fountains of Wayne song "Red Dragon Tattoo" from the album Utopia Parkway features the line "Monday gonna take a ride on/The N train down to Coney Island/With the money I saved/Gonna get me engraved/Drink down a lot of Basil Hayden/Get kicked out when I can't see straight..."
  • Basil Hayden's is mentioned at various times on the HBO series Deadwood as a high-class brand of bourbon served at Le Chez Amis and the preferred drink of Francis Wolcott. The madam Joanie Stubbs breaks a bottle over his head at one point.

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