WASHINGTON, January 24, 2014 — Cruising the liquor store aisles thinking that perhaps I should purchase something that I would not mind critiquing, translates into Conor- speech to mean “If I buy that bottle I bet I could write about it”, I picked up a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage.
First of all, shut up. I know Evan Williams probably ranks low on the totem for the snobbish bourbon drinkers, and for you non bourbon drinkers you are probably wondering who Evan Williams is and why are we talking about him.
To the former, bear with me. To the latter, get over yourself and drink something that is not Johnny Walker Black Scotch whiskey, which is not to knock Johnny Walker Black, but people who drink scotch scoff at Evan Williams, a sentiment I deem uncalled for and unnecessary.
Down to business. Or as one who has had too much Evan Williams would say… Down to bidness. The desire to pick up this bottle comes with the memory of when, a few summers ago I had a glass of 25 year old Evan Williams in London. Thank God I was with my dad because it cost a tremendous amount of money for a single glass of intoxicant.
Further proof that Europe is terrible. But that is irrelevant.
Produced by Heaven Hill Distilleries, here we are talking about the Single Barrel vintage – meaning the bottle comes from one barrel, not a co-mingling of many barrels and it should not be confused with the blended black label that seems to be a Jack Daniels impostor.
Evan Williams is still a family owned distillery with more than 200 years of Kentucky heritage with the distinction of being the second largest holder of aging bourbon. Price wise it compares with Knob Creek, usually in the mid $20 range.
The glass does improve, like a red wine, with a bit of air.
Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage is a solid bottle. About halfway through it, I have to say there are no complaints on my end. It is not strong, to those who read my review on Sam Houston Straight Whiskey know I like a thick, full flavored whiskey making it the perfect choice when you have a night of sipping ahead of you.
Evan Williams Single Barrel is a solid, very drinkable bourbon that has its role on your liquor shelf.
I, of course, drink my bourbon neat, because ice with bourbon is just of course ridiculousness on its face. Mixing a bourbon, like Sam Houston with anything would be pointless. But if you are going to mix bourbon with something go with the Evan Williams Black Label. The science bears me out.
As a mixer Evan Williams Black works well with ginger ale or sweet tea, and its great for cooking (recipes from Heaven Hill below). If the answer is no, it’s gotta be clean and you’re not going to mix it, then we need to have a conversation like adults about some good, cheap, bourbons, and they are out there. (And don’t read too much into the adults part, on Saturday morning you can usually find me watching either cartoons or Pitch Perfect singing at the top of my lungs. Judge me if you want I’m shameless in this particular matter.)
Back to Evan Williams – it’s good bourbon. Unfortunately not the pour you want if the goal is to impress because if you are a bourbon snob chances are you will probably write this bottle off as, let me channel entitled hipsters here, an attempt at bottling something which seeks to rise above its station, but which lacks flavor and substance (did I get it right?).
Which is a shame because the truth is Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage provides a very decent whiskey for the price.
If you are a regular drinker who just wants something tasty to fill your tumbler, this is the libation for you. If you are a hard corps, decades long bourbon drinker who has only the taste for the finer things, then you should probably just buy something more expensive to begin with.
Final no nonsense review: Worth a look…scratch that. Worth a taste.
The bottle is mid-$20, it’s pretty tasty, and if you can get around the idea that it is Evan Williams, you can get over anything.
Until next time, bottoms up.
Evan Williams “Black Label” Bourbon, 43% abv (86 Proof). Cost varies mid-$20+.
From Heaven Hill: A few of Evan’s favorite recipes
Old Fashioned Apple Toddy
6 Apples, peeled and cored
1 C sugar
1 C water
2 C boiling water
Sugar or simple syrup to taste
Nutmeg to garnish
1 pint Evan Williams Bourbon
Pare and core apples. Place them in a baking dish. Dust with cinnamon. Boil sugar and water until sugar melts and create a simple syrup; drizzle syrup over apples and bake for one hour (until soft).
Mash apples and juice into a punch bowl add 2 cups of boiling water and pint of Evans Williams over apple mash and mix. Sweeten to taste.
Let mash settle, ladle toddy into glass and garnish with nutmeg.
Bourbon Baked Beef
2 Rounds of Beef
1 Slice of suet (ask butcher)
½ can of mushrooms
4 egg yolks
1 dozen allspice (a seed from Jamica easily found in the spice section)
strips of lean bacon to cover bottom of baking dish (number depends on the size of your baking dish)
1 C Evan Williams Bourbon to taste
Chop the beef and suet together. Mince the spices together (use a chopper or coffee grinder) and mix thoroughly with the beaten egg yolks. Mix with chopped meat and add Evan W. Line the baking dish with strips of lean bacon, cover with Bourbon, beef and egg mixture. Dot the mixture with butter and bake for two hours (350 degrees) being careful to not let the top “crust” or dry out. You may want to cover with a sheet of foil.