Evan Williams Black Label
We've tried Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch as well as it's Bottled-in-Bond sibling, but haven't conducted a formal tasting of Heaven Hill's entry-level Evan Williams product - affectionately known to most simply as Evan Williams Black Label.
Sporting a black label that could be easily mistaken for Jack Daniels, many pass over this bargain-shelfer and head towards pricier brands. For the money, though, this isn't anything to sneeze at, and for me, remains my anchor or reset upon which I base many of my tastings and ratings. And, like a picture for this tasting, comes in a variety of packages, including this camouflaged Outdoorsman edition.
While Elijah Craig (also a Heaven Hill product) is thought of as the “inventor” of bourbon (and its namesake bourbon is a solid one!), Evan Williams is credited by some as its first distiller. Immigrating from Wales, Williams settled near Louisville, Kentucky and began distilling in 1783. Today, a historical marker in downtown Louisville notes the site as Kentucky’s first commercial distillery.
Evan Williams is made from the core Heaven Hill mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. At one point, this bourbon actually carried a 7-year age statement. Today, though, most feel this 86-proof spirit is aged 4-years.
Color: Copper with medium legs displayed on the inside of the glass
Nose: Fresh kettle corn with a caramel-vanilla glaze. Like many in the Evan Williams and Heaven Hill lineup, this has a very lovely nose.
Palate: More caramel and brown sugar. It has a light mouthfeel without much chew (but let's remember - this is a $14 bourbon). Smooth and balanced, for what it is. There's a little spice on the back palate that plays nicely with the sweetness.
Finish: Medium with vanilla and caramel, followed by gentle spice. This one isn’t overly complicated, but again, this is an easy every-day-pour.
Overall: This is a great sub-$20 bourbon. While the Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond bourbon is one of my favorites, for a lighter proof, for mixing, or for cooking, this one is hard to beat. I used to lean hard on Heaven Hill’s 6-Year Green Label bourbon as a yeoman spirit, but with its disappearance from the market, this one has had to step up to plate (or glass).