Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Heaven Hill
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Release Date: Ongoing (2011 Vintage released 2018-2019)
Age: 7 Years, 10 Months (Each single barrel is approximately 7-8 years old)
Mashbill: 78% Corn, 12% Rye, 10% Malted Barley
MSRP: $27 (2020)
Evan Williams is one of Kentucky’s most prominent bourbon brands, with a portfolio that includes a multitude of bourbons, flavored whiskeys, and liqueurs. Evan Williams Single Barrel is the brand’s most premium ongoing release. The vintage date on the bottle is representative of the year the bourbon was put into oak, with year-over-year vintages being released on an ongoing and consistent basis, often with multiple vintages found on store shelves simultaneously. Over time, the brand has trended from approximately 10 years old to approximately 7-8 years old.
The bottle in review is from barrel number 64, barreled on 1/5/2011, and bottled on 11/16/2018. This information is handwritten on the back of each bottle.
Sweet caramel and vanilla contrast graham cracker and seasoned oak. A touch of toasted marshmallow rounds things out. This traditional array of aromas may be light in its intensity, but offers above average refinement and is surprisingly satisfying nonetheless.
Aged oak is most noticeable, but finds itself in balance with other complimentary flavors including caramel, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and a hint of pepper. These flavors are noticeably rich and developed despite the bourbon’s low proof. Even more surprising, while the bourbon looks thin in the glass, it coats the inside of the mouth nicely offering an above average mouthfeel.
A peppery kick starts things off and is drawn out against sweeter notes of caramel and vanilla. Oak maintains its presence, with a trace of tobacco teasing the taste buds. Medium in length, the finish brings everything together nicely and leaves a lingering spice on the tongue.
Evan Williams Single Barrel is a slightly older, slightly higher proofed, and of course single barrel version of the standard Evan Williams Black that comes in at 4-5 years old and 86 proof. Evan Williams Single Barrel will vary by barrel, but over the years, it has proved to be a generally straightforward, traditional style bourbon. It offers evidence of oak in its flavor profile, but balances that nicely with some sweeter flavors. At 86.6 proof, it’s approachable for many.
While none of this is extraordinarily unique nowadays, the one feature I do like about Evan Williams Single Barrel is the vintage dating on the bottles, each adorned with the year the bourbon was put into oak (along with the exact barreling date and bottling date handwritten on the back of the label). The idea of vintage, which is much more commonly associated with wine, allows you to easily date the bourbon. While every single barrel whiskey has a vintage, not every one is easily identified, especially those in standard production (as compared to private selections where more details are typically offered). This simple dating concept, along with a plentiful supply, allows fans to easily grab a bottle or two of each year as they're released. I often hunt for dates of significance - a child’s birthday, anniversary, and so on. This makes collecting bottles easy and fun, with the intent of some day looking back at decades of vintage dated bottles and opening them up to taste year-over-year in an epic Evan Williams Single Barrel vintage tasting.
A sub-$30 price tag amidst the growing number of bourbon releases and exploding popularity is more striking year after year. While 2-3 year old bourbons striving for attention often enter the market at $40 or more, sometimes we might even forget about those increasingly familiar less expensive bottles sitting on the shelf.
Evan Williams Single Barrel has come down a bit in age over the years, but still maintains about 7-8 years for less than $30. Its low proof can also be pointed to as a detractor, however the bourbon offers a surprisingly rich flavor profile despite its low proof, and many consumers really aren’t seeking out mouth-searing proofs anyway. Evan Williams Single Barrel might be a head scratcher in the sense that it’s low proof, but enthusiast-oriented with it being a single barrel and offering vintage dating. However, it has a rich flavor profile and comes in at an affordable price. It’s consistently landed on our Best $20-$30 Bourbons list for a reason - great flavor and availability, after all it is the lowest cost and most easily accessible single barrel on the market.
Evan Williams Single Barrel might be low proof, but its enjoyable flavor profile, vintage dating, handwritten details, and affordable price tag make it a bourbon everyone should have on their shelf.
Sometimes it’s worth getting excited over the seemingly unexciting. Evan Williams Single Barrel has become so familiar it can be easy to forget about. With an onslaught of new labels, the sub-$30 tried and true is sometimes left to gather dust on the shelves. While it may not offer the magic some barrels of Henry McKenna can, or the intensity of flavor found in Knob Creek Single Barrel, Evan Williams Single Barrel offers a traditional and consistent flavor profile at an affordable price. The good news is you won’t need to scour every liquor store in town for a bottle either.