I confess that as I started down “the bourbon road”, I cast a downward glance at the likes of entry-level products such as Jim Beam and Evan Williams, thinking these were just not “snazzy” enough or very interesting. But I did enjoy great bargains, such as the Heaven Hill 6-Year Bottled-in-Bond product and lamented when it disappeared to be replaced by its higher priced 7-Year older brother at 2-3 times what I had previously paid.
As the 6-year product disappeared from store shelves, I wondered if its replacement for a solid, everyday consumable that was interesting enough to stand up to a rigorous evaluation would be its cousin, Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond. I wasn’t alone, as many critics have touted this as one of the best bourbons in the sub-$20 category. Typically found in the $16-$20 range, and without a fancy label, bottle or lots of fanfare, I decided it was time to give this one a proper tasting.
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 (hence where the “1783” comes from in Evan William’s other product).
Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond is made from the traditional Heaven Hill mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. It is also listed as a bottled-in-bond product, indicating it is a product of a single distillation season, by one distiller, at a single distillery, stored in a federally bonded warehouse under US government supervision for at least 4 years, and bottled at 100 proof.
Color: Golden amber with thick legs displayed in the glass
Nose: A caramel and vanilla bomb, There is plenty of warm, maple syrup sweetness present.
Palate: Smooth and well balanced, true to the nose. Sweet caramel and vanilla with brown sugar is at the forefront, with a dash of black-pepper spiciness arriving late.
Finish: Medium-long with vanilla and caramel, followed by very gentle oak and spice at the end. This is one that leans towards the sweeter end of the spectrum, without being overly sweet.
Overall: This is one that I can confidently say is one of the best sub-$20 bourbons on the market today. With hyped craft whiskeys rushed to market with minimal aging, this is one that can squarely stand toe-to-toe and probably beat many of the competition by providing a smooth, well-balanced product.
Enjoyed neat, on the rocks, or as the foundation for an Old Fashioned, this is an easy-to-find bourbon that drinks like one three times the price. While it’s not overly complicated, nor is it Henry McKenna 10-Year Bottled-in-Bond, it is affordable and does its job well. When Henry McKenna started winning awards in 2019, it went from easily found to quite rare and significantly above MSRP. Let’s hope that similar hype doesn’t produce similar results for this fine sipper.