Originally posted by dzell
The last couple of weeks my wife and I have been watching the HBO series 'Deadwood'. In this show they drink a lot of whiskey.
Last night we watched an episode in the 2nd season (one of the first 2 episodes). In this episode (which takes place in either 1876 or 1877) a gentleman visits a brothel and they get out for him a special bottle of Kentucky's finest "Basil Hayden" bourbon. Does anyone know if this is historically accurate? I know that Basil Hayden, the man, was around long before this time, but at this time was there a bourbon on the market that would be referred to as Basil Hayden bourbon?
According to Wikipedia:
"Basil Hayden is named in honor of Basil Hayden, Sr. Hayden was a Maryland Catholic who led a group of twenty five Catholic families from Maryland into what is now Nelson County, Kentucky (near Bardstown) in 1785. This area is home to many of the famous bourbon labels, including Jim Beam. There Hayden founded the first Catholic church west of the Alleghenies and the first Catholic church in what is now the state of Kentucky.
Hayden was also an accomplished distiller and used a larger amount of rye in his mash than in some other bourbons. Later, Hayden's grandson founded a distillery in Nelson County and named his label in honor of his pioneer grandfather. That label was "Old Grand Dad". The picture on the bottle is copied from a rendering of Basil Sr.'s likeness. When Beam Industries introduced their "small batch" collection, among the four was "Basil Hayden's", which supposedly uses a mash similar to that originally utilized by Hayden back in 1792."
So there was no Basil Hayden brand bourbon produced during the time period (1876 - 1877) in which the events of the show take place, only Old Grand Dad. And I doubt that back then they'd have make the distinction of where it was produced by calling it Kentucky bourbon. Society simply wasn't affluent enough 150 years ago to make the all of the subtle distinctions that we make today with regards to whisky and everything else. There were few bourbon connoisseurs until recent times simply because the level of sophistication simply wasn't there, even at a manufacturing level. But Deadwood has a lot of anachronisms (aside from the amount of cursing). The term "hooplehead" in particular is far removed from the time period, originating from the character Major Hoople in a 1920's comic strip. Most of us have probably heard the term hoople, but the earliest known use of the term "hooplehead" was in 1980 and remained an obscure term until Deadwood used it. I love Deadwood, but it's not a historically accurate show by any means, even regarding well documented historic events like the death of Wild Bill Hickock. The shows depiction of Charlie Utter is about as far from reality as it could possibly be.
So to sum up, the use of Basil Hayden's Kentucky Bourbon is completely inaccurate. Why they used Basil Hayden's rather than one of the brands that would have been around during that time period, I really don't know. They could have used Old Crow (the first sour mash bourbon, named after the inventor of the sour mash process James Crow), Jack Daniels having been established between 1866 and 1875, Old Oscar Pepper Whisky (now known as Woodford Reserve), Evan Williams, or Old Fitzgerald among others.