In several articles, I've highlighted the quality of some of Heaven Hill's signature bourbons, including premium brands Elijah Craig and Henry McKenna 10-Year Bottled-in-Bond, as well as Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond that continues to fly "under the radar" of many that enjoy America's Native Spirit. Today we sample Evan Williams Single Barrel.
Today, Heaven Hill Brands, owned by the Shapiro family, is the fourth-largest spirits distiller in the United States and is number two in the amount of bourbon in its inventory - more than 1.6 million barrels. But it wasn’t always that way; sometimes something great starts with humble roots, hard work, and a nod to the bold.The whiskey industry has always been risky (or pardon the pun, whiskey) business. But the notion of starting a new distillery, with no inventory, in the days after Repeal in 1935, brings new meaning to the word risk.
The Evan Williams lineup pays homage to the first distiller of bourbon - Evan Williams. Brands include a low-proof Evan Williams Green Label, flagship Evan Williams Black Label, Small Batch, and a tribute to the Master Distiller's ability to select individual barrels for bottling - Evan Williams Single Barrel, generally ranging from 7-8 years old. The Single Barrel brand is a 5-time winner of "Whiskey of the Year".
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 whiskey in 1783.
Evan Williams Single Barrel uses the traditional Heaven Hill mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. The label includes handwritten notes stating that it was placed into barrel 784 on 7/20/2013. The barrel was dumped and bottled at 86.6 proof on 6/9/2021, making it just under 8 years old. Similar to competitor Maker's Mark, the bottles are sealed with wax, albeit in black.
Color: Amber with copper hues display slender legs in my Glencairn glass.
Nose: Warm bourbon bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream. Like other expressions in the Evan Williams line-up, this is a sweet and flavorful nose.
Palate: Vanilla toffee nougat gently balanced with oak and holiday baking spices.
Finish: Medium-long with vanilla and caramel, followed by very gentle oak and spice at the end. Sweet vanilla cream is balanced with light spice at the end.
Overall: I've shared before that Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond is one of the best sub-$20 bourbons on the market today. With it being so good (and at $16-$18 MSRP), I'm often reluctant to spend $28-$29 for its Single Barrel sibling.
Truth be told, though, this is a delicious $29 bourbon (or even slightly higher). It's not a $50 or $60 bourbon, but can easily give younger aged craft or start-up bourbons a run for their money. For me, Evan Williams has served as my rock - my benchmark - a standard I can measure other bourbons against. I have no reservations (nor should you) about this age-disclosed Single Barrel expression. It can stand toe-to-toe with the best.