Thanks to my buddy Rob who poured this (and the original Basil Hayden) as part of a recent whisky tasting we had (we all socially distanced and stayed outside and were all fully vaccinated).
Experimentation is a good thing. I can frankly say that as someone who lives in Canada, where you can experiment and still call it whisky. You can’t sell it because the system hurts smaller distilleries and it’s all a waste, but it’s nice that at least the laws are on our side?
Now I’m sad.
What does that have to do with Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye? If you’re like me and have never read anything about it, you’d think it was another rye release. The US has standards, a rye has to meet them, this is listed as a rye and is from the US, ergo it’s just a rye.
Then you find out it’s a mixture of Alberta (Canadian) Whisky, Kentucky straight rye, and California Port. Not a port cask, not a port finish: Someone just poured in some port. Also I think it’s technically not a port if it’s from California? I don’t know, I write whiskey reviews, not port ones, so don’t take that as the truth here.
Now Basil Hayden normally has a high rye amount in it’s mashbill, so I don’t doubt that they can make a rye. Also there’s only one distillery in Alberta that sells their rye, so we know that the component is coming from the makers of Alberta Premium. I’m not going to attempt to find out the port, as I searched for “California-style port” and got a knowledge dump that I can’t pooper scoop properly.
We used to have Alberta Premium Dark Horse, a personal favourite of mine (until it was cheaper to discontinue it). Now we have Basil Hayden Dark Rye which switches the Canadian for American, the American for Canada, and some “Port” for the “Sherry”.
But did it work? Let’s see, shall we?
Price: $56 CAD
Region: A mix of Canadian Whisky, Kentucky Whiskey, and Port, so I’m gonna say “World” and you can scream about that all you want.
Colour: 5YR 5/8
Nose: Apricot, orange, butterscotch, cinnamon
Tart fruit, citrus (aka tart fruit), and spice/sugar. The port is taking center stage. No cereal (Canadian whisky), no rye spice (maybe the cinnamon), it’s all port on the nose. Which isn’t a surprise, just look at the colour.
Wait, that sounds judgey… let’s move on.
Taste: Orange, cinnamon, brown sugar, sourbracht
Tart, spice, molasses, and a sour/meaty note. Not gonna lie: Pour this for me outside of a whisky tasting or blind and I think it’s wine. This tastes like port. Yes, I’m not a big port guy but I drink alcohol, I’ve had the chance to have port, and maybe someone got me a sample set a few years ago (it was me, I got me that).
Finish: Orange, cinnamon, plum, brown sugar
See above. I really don’t have much more to say. I like the plum note. Still a port.
Conclusion: High proof port. If Dark Horse has just the right amount of different rye notes and a strong sherry dollop, then this is “damn, screwed it up, pour port on it to get rid of it”.
That’s not a terrible thing: I have said similar things about Bunnahabhain 18, or a variety of over sherried or over ported whiskies. But I’m here for whisky. Maybe the whisky added spice? It’s hard to say.
So if you don’t want to go through all the trouble to buy port or get a mulled wine this year, buy this. That’s what it does. It’s nice.
Bourbon review #279, World review #7, Whiskey Network review #2142