February 20, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part III: Evan Williams Black Label

In the third installment of bourbons that won't break the bank, I turn to Evan Williams. Evan Williams is distilled in Bardstown, KY, by Old Evan Williams Distillery, which is a subsidiary of the well known Heaven Hill Distilleries. EW was created in 1960 and is named after one of Kentucky's first distillers. (As an interesting aside, Evan Williams the distiller began distilling in 1793 in Louisville, KY, but had to close shop about 20 years later due to complaints from his neighbors. I guess not everyone in Kentucky is a bourbon lover). EW is touted as being the second best selling Kentucky straight bourbon in the U.S., and has a significant international presence, too. And, to be honest, a bottle of it closely resembles Jack Daniel's if a quick, passing glance is all you give it.

EW black label is bottled at 86 proof, and is distilled using the sour mash method. For those unfamiliar with this method, it describes a distillation process in which mash from previous batches is used to ferment and distill new bourbon (more on this process later). This method helps to ensure consistency among different bottlings. Ok. The tasting.

Neat: Upon intial nosing, soft vanilla and corn. Maybe some fruit notes after a few inhales. The smell has a balance, but isn't burdened with having to balance too much. Mouthfeel coats the tongue well, little bit of a burn at the edges. From feel to taste, there isn't much transition. There is a buttery nature to the taste, which layers well with an ethanol tingle. Then some spiciness, a good amount, that makes itself known late. The taste is not complex, and I don't mean to imply that that's a bad thing at all. EW finishes with corn and dry wood that hits the roof of your mouth. It ends with a healthy whisp of astrigency.

Whiskey Sour: Evan Williams makes a makes a good sour. It's tannic finish is blunted by the sweetness or sourness, not sure, of the cocktail. Also, the ice and the water that melts from it mellows the bourbon. However, the corn presence is almost magnified when mixed. I think the whiskey sour is average, and I would have no problem drinking a few of them throughout the evening.

Overall, Evan Williams is better than Ancient Age, and comes in as a close second behind Early Times. And for the purists out there who don't want to compare apples to oranges, which I may myself be, it is a better bourbon that Ancient Age. As with other cheaper bourbons, EW is a great value. Seeing as I paid $9.49 for a 750 ml bottle, I am in no position to complain about its quality. Picking up a bottle of it to have on hand is a smart choice in my mind. Think of it this way: you can have ten normally-sized drinks from the bottle at less that one dollar each. So, there you are.