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Maker’s Mark vs Basil Hayden: What’s the Better Bourbon?

Maker's Mark vs. Basil Hayden

When it comes to bourbons, two of the well-known brands are Maker’s Mark and Basil Hayden’s.

They’re both under the Beam Suntory, but it doesn’t mean they have more things in common. 

Each brand possesses its own character and flavor profile that can make or break any drinker’s preference.

So, if you’re going to choose between the two, which one should you opt for? 

Before making your decision, know more about Maker’s Mark vs Basil Hayden’s differences in this brief yet detailed comparison. 

Main Difference Between Maker’s Mark vs Basil Hayden

Basil Hayden & Maker's Mark 

Basil Hayden’s is bottled at a lower proof compared to Maker’s Mark. But despite the high alcohol content of Maker’s, it remains smooth–perfect as an easy sipper. 

While they’re under the Beam Suntory, they’re produced by different distillers but still within the Kentucky region. 

Maker’s Mark is crafted at Loretto, while Basil Hayden’s is made at Clermont’s Jim Beam Distillery. 

Similar to the mash of Old Grand-Dad, Basil Hayden’s character is quite watered-down and thin but tastes a little better than the former.

Still, Maker’s Mark has the edge as the flavor profile is pleasant, the finish is warm and quite long-lasting, and it’s affordable–great as an everyday whiskey

A Closer Look

Nose, Palate, Finish

Maker’s Mark features nutmeg, cinnamon, clove, and almond aromas followed by flavors caramel, dried fruit, rye spice, and nuts on the palate. 

On the finish, expect a moderate length but slightly warm with hints of black pepper. 

In comparison, Basil Hayden delivers fruit and sweet scents reminiscent of pineapple, cherries, and a little hint of rye spice. 

The palate starts with an oaky and grainy taste with a cherry and peanut note in the middle.

However, the finish doesn’t justify the good aromas, as it’s short yet warm but lacks the body and proof [1].  

Mash Bill & Age Statement

distillery equipment

The aging process [2] of Maker’s Mark is either 6 or 7 years, depending on the distillery’s tasters (they’re the ones deciding whether the spirit is ready or not). 

Basil Hayden doesn’t have an age statement, but it’s certainly aged for at least two years, as per the bourbon requirement

“If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven then I shall not go.”

— Mark Twain, American Writer  

Regarding the mash bill, Maker’s Mark uses 71% corn, 14% malted barley, and 16% red wheat, while Basil Hayden uses 63% corn, 10% malted barley, and 27% rye. 

Alcohol Content

Basil Hayden’s expressions are bottled at 80-proof, the minimum ABV of bourbons, while Maker’s Mark is bottled at 90-proof, higher than the standard ABV of bourbons. 


Bottle of Makers Mark with glass and jigger

Regarding pricing, Maker’s Mark is priced lower, at around $31 per 750ml bottle, while Basil Hayden’s is a little higher priced, at around $40 per 750ml bottle. 

What’s the Best Way to Drink Maker’s Mark & Basil Hayden?

The best way to drink Maker’s Mark and Basil Hayden’s is neat or straight (for those experienced ones) and with a splash of water (for beginners) to lessen the spiciness of rye. 

Based on our taste test, we don’t recommend mixing these two expressions in cocktails as they lack the smash to create tasty mixed drinks. 

Read: Maker’s Mark vs Jim Beam

Do They Have Anything In Common?

hand holding Basil Hayden bottle

Basil Hayden’s and Maker’s Mark have a thing in common.

As mentioned, both brands are under Beam Suntory, owned by the Japanese company Suntory Holdings.

While they’re both produced within the Kentucky region, each brand came from two different distillers: one from Loretto (Maker’s) and another from the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont (Basil Hayden’s). 

FAQs Related to Maker’s Mark vs Basil Hayden

What bourbon is similar to Basil Hayden?

The bourbon expression similar to Basil Hayden’s is Old Grand-Dad, as they’re produced within the same distillery. Also, these two share the same mash bill. 

What is a good substitute for Maker’s Mark?

Good substitutes for Maker’s Mark include Weller bourbon, Larceny, Old Elk, and Pappy Van Winkle (if you can find one).

They’re all wheated bourbons, replacing rye with wheat on their mash bills.  

What is the smoothest bourbon to sip, Maker’s Mark or Basil Hayden?

The smoothest bourbon to sip is Maker’s Mark. Despite the high proof, it’s smooth– without intense flavors.

This is suitable for beginners and those looking for non-challenging spirits. 

What is the mash bill of Maker’s Mark compared to Basil Hayden?

Maker’s Mark has a mash bill primarily consisting of corn, with a higher percentage of corn compared to Basil Hayden. Basil Hayden, on the other hand, has a higher proportion of rye in its mash bill.

How does the aging process differ between Maker’s Mark and Basil Hayden?

Maker’s Mark is aged to maturity in new charred oak barrels, while Basil Hayden is aged longer and typically undergoes a longer aging process in barrels, contributing to its unique flavor profile.

What are the flavor differences between Maker’s Mark and Basil Hayden?

Maker’s Mark is known for its smooth and mellow flavor profile, with notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak, while Basil Hayden offers a lighter and spicier taste, with hints of peppery rye and subtle sweetness.

Which one is stronger, Maker’s Mark or Basil Hayden?

Both Maker’s Mark and Basil Hayden have similar alcohol by volume (ABV) percentages, typically around 40% to 45%, so they are equally strong in terms of alcohol content.

Are there specific cocktails that pair better with Maker’s Mark or Basil Hayden?

Maker’s Mark is often used in classic bourbon cocktails like the Old Fashioned or Manhattan, while Basil Hayden’s lighter flavor profile makes it suitable for sipping neat or in simple cocktails that highlight its unique characteristics.

Can I use Maker’s Mark and Basil Hayden interchangeably in cocktails?

While both are bourbon whiskies, their flavor profiles may affect the taste of cocktails differently, so it’s essential to consider the specific characteristics of each when choosing them for cocktails.

Final Verdict 

As you can see, it is clear that Maker’s Mark has the “edge” in this comparison. It’s a decent bourbon brand that’s high-proof yet easy to drink. 

Maker’s Mark’s flavor profile is nicely balanced with a decent body. Basil Hayden’s is not bad, but it lacks character due to its low-proof and thin layers of flavors. 

Considering the budget, Maker’s Mark is a great option as it’s more budget-friendly than Basil Hayden’s– making it a pleasant “everyday whiskey.”


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