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).