Last Updated on November 23, 2022 by Lydia Martin
Diving into the straight bourbon category is wide, deep, and can be overwhelming.
But brands like Basil Hayden and Woodford Reserve are both excellent introductions to the world of straight bourbon whiskey.
After our team’s intensive research, we gathered information about the main differences between Basil Hayden vs Woodford Reserve.
Take a closer look to decide which is a better choice.
Woodford Reserve & Basil Hayden Compared
Woodford Reserve bourbon has a full mouthfeel and complex flavor compared to Basil Hayden. It has a striking balance of notes of sweetness and spiciness that is pleasant on the nose.
Woodford Reserve has a creamy smooth texture but has the right level of heat for good bourbon. It has a clean taste, good both neat and on ice.
Meanwhile, Basil Hayden is a smooth-sipping bourbon and has a thin mouthfeel. It has a short and subtle smoke finish that is a nice enticement for those who might not want a bold-tasting bourbon.
Basil Hayden’s mellow taste can be well-suited for classic bourbon cocktails.
History & Origin
Basil Hayden’s high-rye straight bourbon brand was born in 1992 in Clermont, Kentucky. It was created in honor of Meredith Basil Hayden Sr., who distilled his bourbon with a higher percentage of rye since 1796.
On the other hand, Woodford Reserve bourbons is a premium brand introduced in 1996 in Woodford County, Kentucky. However, its original distillery started in 1812 and eventually became a National Historic Landmark.
Basil Hayden’s bourbon is first distilled in a column still and second distilled in a doubler. It’s a type of pot still used for the redistillation of already-distilled products. It has 77% corn, 13% rye, and 10% malted barley, is made in small batches and is bottled at 80-proof or 40% ABV.
Woodford Reserve contains 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley and is bottled with 45.2% ABV or 90.4-proof. Woodford Reserve uses a sour mash fermentation with limestone-filtered well water from the distillery to ferment the grains.
It has a careful batching process and uses a combination of column, pot still, and a triple distillation process.
Maturation & Age Statement
Woodford Reserve and Basil Hayden don’t carry an age statement. Woodford Reserve is aged between six to seven years in new wood barrels, while Basil Hayden is aged at least four years and less than ten years because it offers 10-year bourbons.
Both are considered straight bourbon whiskey since the bourbons have been aged for at least two years. 
Woodford Reserve Bourbon
Palate: Rich, rounded and smooth in texture with toffee, caramel, complex citrus, spice notes, and cinnamon hints.
Nose: Heavy dried fruit notes with faint vanilla, tobacco spice, and hints of mints and oak.
Color: It has a clean, brilliant honey-amber color.
Finish: Long, creamy, smooth finish with warm, satisfying woody notes end.
Basil Hayden’s Straight Bourbon
Palate: It has peach, orange, and light vanilla notes with woody notes and a rye spice bite.
Nose: Mild nose with upfront hints of dried fruit and sweet notes of oak, vanilla, citrus, and caramel.
Color: It has a golden-brown color feature.
Finish: Short finish with light fruity hints and lingering charred oak notes.
Ownership & Distillery
Basil Hayden is owned by the well-known Beam Suntory, which produces Jim Beam whiskey products. It is also produced in Jim Beam’s Distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Basil Hayden originates from the family of Jim Beam small-batch bourbons.
Meanwhile, Woodford Reserve is known by the Brown-Forman Corporation, which owns the popular Jack Daniels. Woodford Reserve is produced at the Brown-Forman Distillery in Shively, Kentucky.
Price & Value
Woodford Reserve straight bourbon costs around $40 for a 750ml and is cheaper than Basil Hayden’s 750ml bottle costs about $46.
Woodford brings a smoother profile, given its lower price. Also, it has been the official bourbon of the Derby since 1999.
On the other hand, Basil Hayden offers pleasant flavors with approachable proof making it an easy-drinking bourbon. But which bourbon is similar to Basil Hayden?
Is Woodford Reserve bourbon smoother than Basil Hayden?
Yes, Woodford Reserve bourbon is smoother than Basil Hayden’s bourbon. Its bourbon goes through triple distillation on pot stills and offers a high-quality bourbon that is great for sipping.
Which is rarer, Woodford Reserve or Basil Hayden?
Woodford Reserve is rarer than Basil Hayden. It has Very Fine Rare Bourbon in its Master’s Collection, launched last 2021. This rare bourbon doesn’t have any age statement, but the blend was made up of 11 to 17-year-old barrels, considered rare.
Is Basil Hayden more beginner-friendly than Woodford Reserve?
Yes, Basil Hayden is more beginner-friendly than Woodford Reserve. It is a good option for bourbon newbies because it is an easy-drinking bourbon with a less complex taste than Woodford Reserve.
Basil Hayden and Woodford Reserve are both excellent kinds of straight bourbon whiskey. The Basil Hayden is a greater intro for straight bourbon because of its mellower profile.
But if you’re into a more complex yet smooth spirit, Woodford Reserve is the better choice. It has more interesting whiskey notes and is cheaper than Basil Hayden.
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.