The flavor of smoke, though polarizing, is a point of intrigue for many in the whiskey world. Whether wafting into the olfactory receptors or washing over the palate, it’s an attribute that can encompass notes ranging from plumes off a campfire to petrol. A smooth, light and approachable entry point into smoky whiskey can be found in a new, limited release from Basil Hayden, aptly named Subtle Smoke. This ultra-premium Kentucky bourbon is not born of smoked grain—as is traditionally the case with smoky whiskeys—rather, it’s the beloved Basil Hayden high-rye mash bill, but finished in an innovate process.
“Since Booker Noe founded the brand in 1992, Basil Hayden has been about welcoming people to the category and shining a light on what bourbon can be,” the brand’s east coast American whiskey ambassador, Tim Heuisler, tells COOL HUNTING. “Last year, we introduced Toast to the portfolio and showed how the unique brown rice mash bill and a toasted barrel finish can offer a sweeter, smoother bourbon. With Subtle Smoke, we are finishing our classic Basil Hayden bourbon in a hickory smoked barrel. We are excited to show bourbon fans and those new to the category that smoky spirits don’t have to be harsh.”
The Subtle Smoke sensorial experience begins with bourbon’s rich amber color. On the nose, notes of vanilla and caramel give way to a gentle touch of smoke. Light, layered sweet flavors—a bit like a hybrid of butterscotch and maple—cradle further hints of char. Altogether, it’s accessible and easily sipped neat or in a cocktail.
Images courtesy of Basil Hayden