Evan Williams Black Label Review

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.

picture from http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Evan_Williams_(bourbon)
picture from http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Evan_Williams_(bourbon)

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.

Notes:

  • 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)

Blake's Review

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.

Score:

  • 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.

Andrew's Review

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.

Score:

  • 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

55:  Average

60-69:  Better than average

70-79:  solid/good

80-89:  excellent

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.

mm
Written Review Specialist

All Time Favorite Whisky: Talisker 18 Year

Daily Drinkers: Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Talisker Storm

Blake is a filmmaker and storyteller whose appreciation for whiskey began on his 21st birthday when his friends introduced him to the Old Fashioned cocktail. Shortly after this, Blake began experimenting to create his own version of the classic drink, and purchased a small bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon. Over the last few years, Blake’s whiskey collection has expanded along with his knowledge and enjoyment of whiskies. Originally a bourbon guy, Blake got into rye whiskey through Whistlepig 10 year, and later got into single malt scotch via Lagavulin 16 year and Talisker 10 year.

With interests in theology, philosophy, history, and many sciences, Blake thoroughly enjoys learning the history and process behind whiskey, and continues to insist that while sipping whiskey, one is sipping history, culture, geography, chemistry, and a host of other disciplines. Blake is also an avid hiker, alpine skier, kayaker, and cyclist; he also enjoys sailing on occasion.
mm
Publisher

All Time Favorite Whisky: Balblair 1990 2nd Edition

Daily Drinkers: Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, Springbank 10 Year

A former craft beer enthusiast, Andrew fell in love with whiskey after tasting a pour of Laphroaig 10 year and being amazed that such a flavor could exist within a liquid. With a college background in biochemistry and a passion for history, Andrew quickly grew to love the science of whiskey making, the history of different distilleries, and the exploration of flavors within a dram. To Andrew, whiskey is more than just a drink; it is a fascinating mix of art and science – an intricate beauty to be pondered and appreciated. Besides this, Andrew has found that a nice bottle of whiskey has an amazing ability to bring people together and unite people from all different backgrounds together as friends.

While Andrew can be found drinking any style of whiskey from any region around the world, he has a particular affinity for spice-laden bourbons and coastal scotches. Besides drinking whiskey, Andrew also enjoys weight lifting, road biking, and cooking.

1 thought on “Evan Williams Black Label Review”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *