EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Evan Williams

Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon

Evan Williams Single Barrel 2002 Vintage Kentucky Straight Bourbon, distilled by Heaven Hill Distilleries and bottled at 43.3% ABV. 

Price Range: $20-$25

Heaven Hill released their first single barrel vintage bourbon in 1995. While this is not the first single barrel bourbon ever released, that distinction belongs to Blanton's Bourbon, Heaven Hill distinguishes this product by only selecting barrels from the same year the bourbon was put in oak. Many other single barrel whiskies select their barrels based on a similar flavor profile rather than age. Each year, their Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam select "honey" barrels that come from the upper floors of their rick houses. They explain that these upper floors experience the greatest annual temperature swings which they believe results in a bourbon that is deeper in color and richer in flavor. While the Evan Williams Single Barrel does not list an age statement, each vintage lists the date the spirit went into the barrel and the date the bourbon was bottled, which is usually nine or ten years.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The nose is rich and powerful, full of caramel and vanilla with undertones of cedar sweet cherries and persimmons.

Palate: The palate is surprisingly light and delicate though the alcohol is initially a little strong. The bourbon is slightly sweet and fruity however it is well balanced with oak.

Finish: The finish had a light dryness from the oak which initially tastes slightly nutty and salty. As the flavors linger, sweet notes of raspberries and cherries come back to the fore.

Conclusion: With its lighter and more delicate flavors, Evan Williams Single Barrel 2002 Vintage is a great bourbon to sip neat, especially for its sub $30 price tag. Given a little time to breath in the glass, some of the strong alcohol notes that are initially intense blow off and you are left with a pleasant and smooth bourbon. Evan Williams Single Barrel is also one of my favorite bourbons to give as a gift because it is often completely new to the recipient, it tastes fantastic and it is super affordable.

Review: Evan Williams Black Label

Evan Williams "Black Label" Kentucky Straight Bourbon, distilled by Heaven Hill and bottled at 43% ABV. 

Price Range: $9-$12

Heaven Hill, the producer of Evan Williams, has a long and fascinating history which I will have to go into further detail  at another time. Heaven Hill launched Evan Williams bourbon in 1957, 22 years after the company's founding. Since then, Evan Williams has become Heaven Hill's flagship brand, selling over $50 million dollars worth of whiskey in the last 12 months. Despite the the fact that Evan Williams is touted as being the second larges selling bourbon in the US, it has less than half the market share of Jim Beam white label and less than one fourth the market share of Jack Daniels.

Evan Williams is thought to use a traditional bourbon mash bill of 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% barley. Also, Evan William use to carry a 7 year age statement, but like many other whiskeys, it has dropped its age statement. Since there is no stated age on the label we know that it is at least 4 years old but some estimate the bourbon is probably more in the 5 to 6 year range. While Heaven Hill produces four versions of Evan Williams that vary by proof and the color of the label, (Green Label 40%ABV, Black Label 43%ABV, White Label 50%ABV, Red Label 50.5%ABV) the Black Label is the most common.

Evan Williams, or as my friends and I affectionately call it E-Dub, is an extremely undervalued bourbon. I was first introduced to Evan Williams three years ago when some friends of mine and I put together a blind tasting of whiskeys $20 and under and I was blown away by its flavor, quality, and price point. Since then Even Williams has become one of my favorite all time whiskeys. E-Dub is extremely versatile, it taste great neat, you can drink it on the rocks if that's your thing, and it makes an amazing Manhattan, all for about 10 bucks a fifth!

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The nose is strong with notes of oak, cherries and vanilla. As the bourbon breaths, aromas of green apple and minerally chardonnay are carried up with a hint of the underlying alcohol.  

Palate: The palate is smooth, with a medium body and a pleasant warmth that fills the mouth. The bourbon tastes lightly sweet with notes of oak, fresh bread and baking spice.

Finish: On the finish, the bready character lingers while higher notes of sweet cherry shine through and a light oak astringency drys the palate for the next drink.

Conclusion: Evan Williams Black Label is a high quality everyday bourbon that's easy on the bank account. As I said before, Evan Williams works neat and it is excellent mixed in cocktails. If you are not enamored with the extra aged, high-priced oak bomb bourbons that seem to be all the rage, then Evan Williams is an excellent bourbon to check out.

Blind Whiskey Tasting $20 and Under

In June, David Driscoll of K&L Wines wrote a series of post called “Drinking to Drink.” While the series touched on a number of things, one of the themes was how whiskey drinkers often correlate price with enjoyment.  Driscoll argued that just because one whiskey is $80 doesn't mean that a drinker will enjoy it four times more than a $20 bottle.  In that same vein he suggested that there were a number of quality whiskeys that could be had for $20 and enjoyed more regularly without breaking the bank. After reading this series, I was inspired to organize a whiskey tasting of bottles that retailed around $20 or less.  I was curious to find out if there was a whiskey that I had overlooked simply because it lived on a lower shelf in the liquor aisle.

With some help from another post by Driscoll and my own mental list, I put together a list of six whiskies around $20 for the tasting.

  1. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
  2. Old Weller Antique Bourbon
  3. Jim Beam Black Label Bourbon
  4. Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon
  5. George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whisky
  6. Bank Note Blended Scotch Whisky

I know that Bulleit Bourbon can also be found on sale for under $20 but my friends and I are pretty familiar with it so I decided to leaving it out of the tasting.  I also decided to conduct the tasting blind. That there are a number of factors that can sway the perception of how good a beer, wine or spirit is based on external factors like, what shelf it's on in the store, label design, bottle shape and price.  I wanted to get an honest assessment of the contents of the bottles without being swayed by some of those external factors, so I had my wife wrap all the bottles in brown paper bags before the tasting.

The night of the tasting a friend of mine hosted the event and provided glasses, snacks and still water. We tasted the spirits in random order in glencairn glasses, neat, at room temperature.  We each took notes about what we tasted and gave each spirit a rating.  Once everyone had tasted all the whiskeys we revealed each whiskey from lowest to highest score.

 The undisputed favorite of the evening was Evan Williams Black Label, the least expensive whiskey, which retails at my local Safeway for $9.99.  I had tasted Evan Williams only once before a few months prior and I thought it would do well in the tasting but I didn't expect it to come out on top. Next came Buffalo Trace and Old Weller Antique.  I wasn't that surprised that these did well for the whole group but personally I was shocked that I had rated Old Weller above Buffalo Trace. This surprised me because I really like rye whiskeys and I have never been a fan of Maker's Mark. I assumed that this meant that I didn't like wheated bourbons and that I preferred bourbons with rye in their mash bill over wheat.  But even at 107 proof, I felt like Old Weller was more balanced and had more character compared to the 90 proof Buffalo Trace.

Dickel, Beam and Bank Note finished in the lower half.  Bank Note is a blended Scotch, and for the price I still think it is pretty good but I suspect that compared to all the bourbons it stood out like a sore thumb, and not it a good way.  The results that evening are exactly why I like to do blind tastings.  My assumptions about what I do and don't like were challenged and as a result I now have two new favorite whiskeys under $20: Evan Williams, and Old Weller.