WTF is Small Batch Bourbon? Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek Review

These last few weeks have been pretty stressful for me, so when I decided to write a review about branching out in my booze loving ways, it may have initially been slightly more selfish than helping all of you find your new favorite drink. Don’t worry- I regained sight of the real reason we’re all here, so forgive me my lush tendencies and instead join me on the life changing journey towards trying manly new things and not being intimidated by the impressive “Super-Premium” bourbon category. Because nobody ever told me the truth about small batch bourbon like Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek (with that being that it is effing delicious): INTERNET, I HAVE A BONE TO PICK WITH YOU.

Basil Hayden’s and Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon: Drink Like a Man AND Enjoy It

As I’ve grown older, my alcoholic tastes have changed. From the tender high school days of playing Centurion with terrible warm Coors Lite to the even tender-er mornings after trying to chug a Colt45 because that was what the cool kids did, in my much older mid-twenties I’ve realized that that’s exactly what kids do. But even as I’m older and wiser, I find myself still drinking the same dark rum and the same crap whiskey that have been my stand-bys ever since I realized that warm wine coolers really weren’t doing me any favors. While looking for something that still satisfied my inner need to feel awesome because I can now drink real alcohol, but something that didn’t taste like paint thinner, small batch bourbon was suggested to me.

So what the hell does small batch bourbon mean? We’ve all heard of “craft” and “small batch” beer- they’re taking the potent potables world by storm- but they’re not just buzzwords, and you can now associate them with other spirits thanks to pioneering brands focused on hand-crafted goodness and ultra-high quality. What I ended up trying was Basil Hayden’s Super-Premium bourbon, and Knob Creek Single Barrel bourbon: two brands that invented “small batch” in relation to the bourbon world.

Have you ever walked into a liquor store hankering for something new and exciting- something that will look awesome on your wet bar, and that will solidify your status as a manly man and a paragon of discerning taste? Not comprehending the full gamut of glass bottles glinting in the harsh incandescent light and not wanting to look like a total twat for standing around shuffling your feet for twenty minutes, you grab a likely candidate because that’s definitely something a man would drink. You take it home only to find out that you’ve just bought a very attractively packaged weed killer/rat poison/battlefield antiseptic and end up moping into a Zima you found under your bed. No, it’s just me?! Well, I’m fighting back against this saddest form of alcohol abuse by recommending some small batch bourbon that you’ll enjoy on a whole myriad of levels- and I’m talking real talk, for real people, who aren’t self proclaimed bourbon-philes who can identify every fragrant note in their golden manna simply by rubbing the glass against their forehead while sacrificing a small animal.

basil hayden's know creek small batch bourbon

Basil Hayden’s Super-Premium Bourbon
retails for  around $36.99 / 750ml

What they have to say for themselves: “Aged for eight years in new charred American white oak barrels, then charcoal-filtered and chill-filtered for an incredibly approachable, sophisticated and luxurious bourbon. With a relatively mild 80 proof it is equally enjoyable neat or as the base to a contemporary or traditional cocktail.”

What I have to say about it: Rarely do I agree with such fastidiously concocted spin doctor jargon… but incredibly approachable and sophisticated nail Basil Hayden’s perfectly on the head. The only thing I currently drink neat is a good deep spiced rum, or the occasional scotch that I truly haven’t learned to appreciate yet. (I like it because Ron Burgundy does, ok?!) When I picked up my glass and took a sip, there was no body-wracking shudder, no booze bumps, and no stink face. You still get the delicious sear you’d expect from a manly man’s drink, but you’re also still able to discern a light peppery spice and aromatic flavors.  There’s absolutely no off-putting aftertaste, just a strong warmth that feels fantastic spreading through your chest and lingering for a minute or two. It’s the perfect thing to sip away at while waxing your mustache and polishing your monocle or watching NASCAR or writing a treatise on bear-wrestling; mostly, it’s the perfect thing to sip with a steak.

basil hayden's know creek small batch bourbon

Knob Creek Single Barrel Bourbon
retails for around $30.99 / 750ml

What they have to say for themselves: “Committed to going the distance to make a Super-Premium bourbon that stands apart from all others by aging our bourbon for a full nine years in charred American white oak barrels and bottling it at an honest 100 proof. Its flavor is rich and hearty- the way bourbon used to be, the way it ought to be.”

What I have to say about it: The difference between 80 proof and 100 proof is noticeable (obviously, but it has to be said.) When I took a sip of Knob Creek neat, it started out absolutely delicious, but finished more powerfully with a kick in the junk that left a goofy grin on my face. After the smooth, easy drinking Basil Hayden’s, I had grown complacent. It’s not so much that I found one better than the other, but really that they were two entirely different animals. Where Basil Hayden’s is a languorous and deadly jungle cat, Knob Creek felt more like a spectacular powerful rhino. If this analogy seems a touch dramatic, that’s because I think exotic predatory mammals are just as awesome as life giving liquor, so APPRECIATE MY WORDPLAY ALREADY. Personally, I found that I liked the Knob Creek cooled with an ice cube- slightly chilled really balanced out the new “HOLY CRAP FEEL THE POWER” experience that my palate was going through.

What I can tell you that as someone who has no previous experience with good bourbon (I’ve certainly had some that made me never want to drink it again) is that either of these small batch bourbon offerings are excellent, smooth choices that you can actually enjoy for what they are. If you want to take a investigatory foray into the spirit world, try the Basil Hayden’s; if you like a bit more hair on your chest, or know that you want MOAR alcohol, you’ll love Knob Creek. But I’m happy to say that you’ll appreciate both… and the more you drink, the more appreciative you’ll get.

Are you a bourbon lover? Have a favorite alcohol you want to see me smash myself on? Please tell me. God I love booze.



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Author, Designer, and "that girl your mother warned you about." Looking good seems to be my job, whether it's working with the site design, or a number of other more interesting capacities. I have a ridiculous sense of humour and a brutal sense of honesty- you'll see a lot of that coming through in my writing, so don't say I didn't warn you if I somehow manage to offend you AND hurt your feelings at the same time. On the plus side, it makes my dating and advice columns a lot more pertinent to an unfinished man in the real world.

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