Evan Williams “Black Label” Bourbon is the main offering in the Evan Williams family of bourbons. The label prominently displays “Kentucky’s 1st Distiller,” with the company stating that the bourbon is “named after Evan Williams, who opened Kentucky’s First Distillery along the banks of the Ohio River in 1783, it’s aged far longer than required by law.” Because the bourbon is labeled straight and does not carry an age statement, by law that means that it was aged for at least 4 years.
While not officially called Evan Williams “Black Label” Bourbon, Evan Williams Bourbon is often referred to as “Black Label.” A number of factors contributed to this, including its generic “Evan Williams Bourbon” name that lacks a more identifiable nomenclature, such as Single Barrel, Bottled-in-Bond, or an alternative. Additionally, Evan Williams used to have a similar 80 proof option with a green label, that has been referred to similarly as “Green Label.”
Light scents of orange zest waft to the top. Behind these are lighter, more traditional scents of oak, vanilla, and caramel. Overall the nose affords a fine opening, however, the scents are so incredibly light that it’s hard to actually enjoy them for what they are.
Chalky vanilla, lightly charred oak, and light caramel open the sip. Following quickly behind are flavors of muddled orange rind coated in brown sugar. In tow is a slight rye spice. It’s a perfectly acceptable midpoint for the sip and helps to bring the bourbon past its weaker opening.
A gentle rye spice kicks off the finish and slowly expands over the course of a few seconds. In addition to the initial spice, charred oak and leather make a quick appearance before handing the reins back over to the warming spice. This spice lingers for a surprisingly lengthy amount of time considering that the whiskey only clocks in at 86 proof. It’s a nice touch that combined with the palate allows Evan Williams to end on a high note compared to how it started off.
The Evan Williams family of bourbons consists of four standard bottles that include Black Label, 1783 Small Batch, Bottled-in-Bond, and Single Barrel. These standard bottles are joined by two ongoing limited releases, Evan Willaims 12 Year and Evan Williams 23 Year. Of the lot, “Black Label” is the lowest proof offering, beating out Evan Williams Single Barrel by 0.6 proof points.
Compared to the rest, Black Label is the only one that doesn’t have a unique identifying trait. Every one of its siblings has either an age statement or is pulled from a single barrel or made from a small batch of bourbon barrels. Black Label is just a run of the mill standard bourbon offering with a flavor profile that matches this description aptly. It doesn’t stand out amongst the other bottles that share its namesake, nor does it make any lasting impression that allows it to stand out among other bottles in the marketplace. While the sip may be satisfactory, there isn’t anything that allows itself to be called out as unique either.
While it may not be unique, Evan Williams Black Label is priced to sell. Even better is the fact that this bourbon hasn’t gone up in price in almost 10 years, as can be seen when we did a Face Off back in 2014. It’s great to see Heaven Hill has held the price steady over the years, and it makes Black Label an even better deal in today’s current climate.
Realistically, $15 for an average bourbon is an eye popping deal. Sure it’s not the highest proofed, highest aged, or even a bourbon that carries any unique identifiers, but it nails the job it was assigned. That is, it's an approachable bourbon that will please most anyone who pours a glass. To be able to do that for only $15 is mindblowing nowadays, and really does make it seem like it would be the best value around. That is until you take into consideration that you can buy a bottle of Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond for about the same price and walk away with a better pour. While it may not quite be the same value that Bottle-in-Bond offers, it’s pretty darn close and needs to be recognized as one of the most easily accessible best value bourbons around.
Evan Williams Black Label is everything consumers should want out of a bourbon: affordable, accessable, and a classic bourbon flavor profile.
Evan Williams Black Label is as standard a representation of bourbon as they come. The nose may be on the lighter side, however, the palate and finish help to deliver an average, but completely acceptable sip. This is a bourbon that will turn no heads or be heaped with praise, but it is one that makes people feel like they want to pour out their glass either. Black Label is one of the best values around for under $20, despite delivering an average pour. If you’re just getting into bourbon or you’ve been drinking it for 40 years, Black Label deserves a spot in your basket the next time you go to the liquor store. It’s a solid reminder that bourbon is meant to be both accessible both in allocation and in price, and that you don’t need to have a fancy backstory to deliver an acceptable sip.