Class: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Price: $10-15 U.S. Retail
Evan Williams bourbon is produced by Heaven Hill at their Bernheim distillery in Louisville, KY, and is by volume sales Heaven Hill's most popular bourbon brand. In fact, according to Spirits Business, Evan Williams was the 7th highest selling whiskey in the world in 2017, and 2nd highest selling bourbon brand (behind Jim Beam).
The brand's name commemorates the 18th century Welsh immigrant Evan Williams who was allegedly the first man to start a commercial distillery in what became the Commonwealth of Kentucky when he started distilling on the shore of the Ohio River in 1783. Today, a landmark stands in Louisville marking a spot near where his distillery was said to have been.
The Evan Williams brand contains a number of different expressions, with the Black Label serving as the flagship. The brand has expressions spanning every price category, from the very bottom shelf Green Label to rare 12-25 year age stated bottles. The Black Label is a tier above Green, and can commonly be found near the Bottled in Bond (White Label), 1783, and vintage Single Barrel expressions, which all retail for less than $30. Each shares the same mash bill not only across the brand, but across all of Heaven Hill's non-wheated bourbon brands, including Elijah Craig, Henry McKenna, Heaven Hill, and Fighting Cock.
- Mash of 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Malted Barley
- At least 4 years old (a 7 year age statement was removed in the early 2000's)
- Bottled at 43% ABV (86 proof)
Nose: Charred oak, molasses, and caramel apple. I suppose the word "smooth" is a fitting descriptor.
Palate: Arrives with a fair amount of oak before caramel sweetness, apples, and spice develop.
Finish: Short and rather tart with lingering sourish oak and a touch of apple.
- Nose - 40
- Palate - 40
- Finish - 40
- Overall - 40/100
Buying Recommendation: Don't spend your money on it. Remember, scores and buying recommendations are based upon drinking the whiskey neat. Even though the Single Barrel is double the cost of this Black Label, it's much more than twice the value, and at a still affordable $25-30, it's the Evan Williams I recommend buying. While I would take this over Jim Beam White or Jack Daniel's Old No.7, there's very little else I'd want to do with this bourbon besides pour some cola over it.
Nose: Corn, sweet caramel/butterscotch, and some rather blandish vanilla. With rest, the vanilla gains a bit more character and some oak comes out. Extremely simple and inoffensive.
Palate: The arrival is full of watery caramel and a very mild tongue burn. Further notes of sweet corn and Karo syrup (corn syrup with vanilla extract added) develop along with hints of woodspice and sweet cherries. Finally, a bit of complexity!
Finish: Cherry bitters, sour mash, and thin/watery vanilla.
- Nose - 45
- Palate - 55
- Finish - 30
- Overall: 47/100
Buying Recommendation: Don't spend your money on it. As whiskey enthusiasts, we have all stretched the wallet a bit on whiskeys that really pique our interest. Which means we must balance those purchases by attempting to find a few low-cost bottles that still offer some form of quality. So let me say first, that this is not a terrible bourbon. Sipped neat, it offers a much better experience than Old No. 7 or even Gentleman Jack. But even for less than $15, it's a fairly useless bourbon to have on your shelf, unless you need a well whiskey to pump out mixed drinks to your not-so-whiskey-inclined friends. For the same price, look for Heaven Hill (especially the bottled in bond if you're in Kentucky), or spend just a few dollars more and get the White Label Bottled in Bond.
The Rating Scale
At WBSE we use a true 100 point scale for scoring to allow whiskeys to further differentiate themselves (as opposed to a letter grade scale where 90% of whiskeys fall between 78-92). This allows you to more easily compare scores between different whiskeys. Here is how the scale breaks down:
1-49: Varying degrees of bad
60-69: Better than average
90+: truly exceptional
All thoughts and opinions expressed are original to the author of the review or article. We are in no way paid to express any specific opinion about any specific company or product.