Basil Hayden vs Buffalo Trace Bourbon: Which is Better?

Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Buffalo Trace and Basil Hayden are two of the most remarkable bourbon brands today. 

Is Basil Hayden a premium gateway bourbon or an overpriced bourbon? Is the Buffalo Trace worth the hype?  

The two brands created legions of fans (and haters), but which one is the better everyday bourbon?

Here’s a comprehensive comparison between Basil Hayden vs Buffalo Trace. Read on. 

Buffalo Trace & Basil Hayden’s Bourbon Compared 

Buffalo Trace & Basil Hayden Bottles and glasses on top of a wooden table

James Beam Distilling Co released Basil Hayden bourbon earlier than Buffalo Trace. It was introduced in 1992, while Buffalo Trace was launched in 1999. 

Basil Hayden contains higher rye content than Buffalo Trace, but Buffalo Trace is more flavorful, bolder, and richer than Basil Hayden. 

Buffalo Trace is cheaper than Basil Hayden by roughly $12, but Buffalo Trace can be challenging to find.

In addition, Buffalo Trace features higher alcohol proof than Basil Hayden

Basil Hayden is made by James Beam Distilling Co., owned by Beam Suntory, while Buffalo Trace is crafted in Buffalo Trace Distillery. Sazerac Company owns it. 

Bourbon Face-Off 

History & Origin

Buffalo Trace is a flagship bourbon from Buffalo Trace Distillery, and it was launched in 1999. 

It is crafted to honor the ancient buffalos who carved paths and led American pioneers to new frontiers.

Basil Hayden was introduced in 1992 by Booker Noe as a part of their Jim Beam Small Batch Collection. 

Booker Noe made it to honor Basil Hayden Sr, the whiskey maker known for crafting high-rye content whiskeys. 

Production & Maturation

whiskey barrels

Buffalo Trace starts in a low-rye proprietary mash bill fermented and distilled twice for purity and alcohol concentration. 

It is aged in newly charred oak barrels for at least eight to ten years to ensure the sharpness is rounded out [1]. 

Basil Hayden is crafted with a high-rye proprietary mash bill. It is distilled and aged in barrels under the bourbon production requirement. 

Mash Bills 

Basil Hayden uses a higher rye content mash bill than Buffalo Trace. The current mash bill of Basil Hayden consists of 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley. 

On the other hand, the mash bill ratio of Buffalo Trace is undisclosed to the public, but the flagship bourbon uses the Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #1.

The bourbon uses less than 10% rye on its mash bill [2]. 

Tasting Notes

pouring liquor on a glass

Basil Hayden

Palate: Charred oak, sweet brown sugar, caramel, vanilla, black pepper, and dried fruit 

Nose: Charred oak, caramel, vanilla, dried fruit, rye spice, floral, and apple

Color: Golden brown

Finish: Pleasant with lingering oak, dried fruit, apple, and vanilla finish 

Buffalo Trace

Palate: Pleasantly sweet, brown sugar, spice, toffee, oak, dark fruit, espresso, chocolate, and anise

Nose: Complex vanilla, molasses, mint, cinnamon, caramel, cereal, and baking spice

Color: Deep amber

Finish: Long, smooth, and deep with oak, baking spice, and vanilla. 

Product Availability

Buffalo Trace bourbon whiskey has amazing tasting notes, and it is not a surprise that it is one of the most after-sought bourbons on the market today. 

Buffalo Trace Distillery hardly keeps up with the demand, so scoring a bottle can be challenging with Buffalo Trace products.

On the other hand, you can find bottles of Basil Hayden everything because there is no great shortage of this bourbon, unlike Buffalo Trace.

Ownership & Distillery

Bottle of Basil Hayden

Basil Hayden is a product by James Beam Distilling Co, owned by the Beam Suntory. The bourbons are distilled in Jim Beam Distillery in Kentucky. 

We focus on delivering authentic products that consumers can have confidence in while balancing innovation with tradition,”

– Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Master Distiller 

Buffalo Trace is distilled and produced in Buffalo Trace Distillery, and the Sazerac Company owns the brand. 

Price & Value

Bufalo Trace Bottle on top of a barrel

Basil Hayden is more expensive than Buffalo Trace. Based on Total Wine, Basil Hayden costs around $35.99 per bottle, while Buffalo Trace is shy of $23.99 (Total Wine). 

Basil Hayden features a nice bottle but based on our whiskey tasting, the juice inside is unremarkable for such a price. 

On the other hand, Buffalo Trace is a bang for your buck because it is smooth, tasty, and gives a good value and experience for the money.


Is Buffalo Trace a better everyday bourbon than Basil Hayden?

Yes, Buffalo Trace is a better everyday bourbon than Basil Hayden.

Aside from its fair price, it has amazing tasting notes you can enjoy in cocktails, sipped neat, or with cigars and ice.

Which has a bolder flavor, Buffalo Trace or Basil Hayden?

Buffalo Trace has a bolder flavor than Basil Hayden. It is more flavorful, rounder, and richer than Basil Hayden.

Basil Hayden has a slightly smooth yet light flavor that feels thin and watered. 

Final Verdict

Buffalo Trace has well-rounded and impressive tasting notes that give excellent value for its price.

Thanks to its unique aging process and mash bill, it is a solid mid-shelf bourbon. 

Buffalo Trace has more flavor than Basil Hayden and has more depth and spice that we enjoyed neat and on the rocks. 

Basil Hayden is unremarkable for its price- worth trying, but Buffalo Trace is a solid choice if you are looking for an everyday bourbon. 



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here.

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