Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon

Today it’s a tale of two whiskeys: Heaven Hill Distillery’s bottom-shelfer, Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon (you can find it for $10 a bottle) versus the much more acclaimed Evan Williams Single Barrel (2000 vintage). The question: Does barrel selection and an extra three years of age make $15-$20 worth of difference?

First, we take a look at the cheapo. At $10 a bottle sale-price, it’s hard to beat the Evan Williams Black Label bottling for value. Aged around 6 years (likely a vatting of product aged minimum 4 years and up to 7 years) and bottled at the slightly-higher 43% ABV, you simply can’t get a better American whiskey if your budget is $10. That’s not quite enough to recommend it, however, so let’s do a tasting:

Nose: Candle wax, cantaloupe, burned marshmallow, butane lighter fluid.

Palate: Sweet white chocolate and maple sugar candy on the entry, resolving into a typical bourbon profile of corn syrup, wood char, and neutral spirit. A little too sweet and cloying. The alcohol burn is brash and vodka-like.

Finish: Vanilla, creme brûlée, blackstrap rum, and candy corn. Medium-length, but marred by that “impure spirit” aftertaste.

Overall: Not impressed. It has more flavors going for it than your average bottom-shelf whiskey, but its brash young grain and overbearing corn sweetness are just too much to recommend it anywhere but the cocktail glass. Normally, as this is not something I would ever drink neat again, I would give it a “Not Recommended”. However, the effort displayed by the extra aging and ABV, and the phenomenally low price tick it up to the “Mediocre” level. Sorry Evan Williams fans. However! Scroll up to see my opinion of the Evan Williams Single Barrel (2000 vintage).

Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon
43% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $10 - $15
Acquired: (50 ml sample) Purchased.

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  • you must be a tough guy to drink this. rough, robust, dry. The menthol like character is like i’m being assaulted by it. There off label budget bourbons have this same character. I throw both bottles out. I had there Single Barrel years ago and that was dam good.

  • Even at $11 I was very disgusted by this. Definitely not a “neat” drinking bourbon. Leave it to a heavy mixing with cola.

    Wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, because he’d probably regift it to me!

  • Evan williams is hard to justify for me, when it comes to getting it, while it is cheap i can’t get past the price. i can get elijah craig 12 year for 12-14 dollars more and the quality is just better in almost every way. Still might be good to get when i have company over and they cant handle anything higher than 85 proof.

  • Pour it over ice and its completely drinkable, unless you’re a housewife or have heart problems. At $10/liter, you can’t beat it when those damned kids just drove you to drink.

  • Though I am a big Evan Williams Black fan, I enjoyed reading this review, and–oddly–I generally agree with what you’ve written here. The alcohol burn for EWB really is a little harsh and, as you put it, “vodka-like,” and it is ultimately the flavor of the whiskey that ends up vindicating it as a cheap bourbon champion. I think that enjoyment of Evan Williams depends upon one’s willingness to put up with the alcohol burn, which varies with mood and drinking style. Also, as Marcus suggests, EWB is very mellowed out by ice, for those occasions when you don’t feel like taking him on at full strength :).

  • I like Jack and coke but with the price of Evan Williams Black it tastes just as good with coke as Jack and a whole lot easier on the budget. I like it a lot.

  • If you’re a bourbon drinker, you’ll enjoy Evan Williams Black. It’s a solid bourbon, on the rocks or as a mixer. If you’re not a bourbon drinker, you probably won’t like it. It’s really that simple. There’s nothing fancy here; it’s just good bourbon.

  • I tried this in a bar the other year and I have to say I really enjoyed it – great nose, enjoyable to drink (just needed a glass of cold water on the side as it was quite mouth-drying), nice aftertaste. My sis got me the Single Barrel that Christmas and although it was very pleasant, I have to say I enjoyed the Black Label more – don’t ask why! It would be possible to get a bottle from Amazon in the UK (£25 including delivery last time I looked), but it seems like a sin considering it’s so cheap in the US. If I ever visit the States, I’ll definitely pick up a bottle.

  • I use EWB to make the best damn Manhattans I ever had. The vermouth tones down the burn and the bitters compliments the vanilla and woody flavours. No cherry juice just a cherry soaking in the bottom of the glass. Heavenly.