Evan Williams Single Barrel holds a small, nostalgic place in my heart. When I purchased my first bottle years ago, I felt like I had something slightly special, what with the wax top, neck tag, and barrel dates to boot. Heaven Hill might be known for their budget-level whiskey, but they rarely fall short in the presentation and marketing departments. Evan Williams Bottled in Bond might draw the most attention for the brand, but I’ve always leaned towards the Single Barrel offering. It was also one of the first whiskeys I made a scoresheet for.
Needless to say, I figured a revisit and subsequent update were due. When I first tried Evan Williams Single Barrel, the average age leaned towards 9 years, usually stopping about 3 months shy. More current bottlings are in the 7-year range, so finding one that barely hit that the 8-year mark prompted a “might as well” response out of me. Time to find out how it holds up.
Nose: Vanilla, cherry, and peanut butter pie, complete with a cocoa/chocolate crust. Nice presence of oak, cinnamon, and a hint of nutmeg. The roasted nut essence is strong with this one. Some corn, honey, and a sprinkling of brown sugar. One of those bourbons that transports me to a Southern state fair.
Palate: Honey roasted peanuts, brown sugar, and caramel. Light blend of vanilla, oak, and a touch of orange peel. Fairly dry as the finish begins to take over.
Finish: Maintains the roasted peanut essence and oak tannins. Hints of caramel and brown sugar add enough sweetness to barely offset the dry nature.
I’ve revisited a decent number of whiskeys over the past year or so, with the vast majority rubbing me in different ways than they did previously. Sometimes these differences were big, other times they were subtle. Evan Williams Single Barrel is neither. Instead, it tastes and feels identical to the last time I indulged a bottle of it. Considering this is a single barrel line, I’m stunned. The tried-and-true Heaven Hill qualities are in high supply here, but the respectable age and relatively low proof give it some welcome depth and (here it comes) smoothness. It’s no wonder I’ve always had a soft spot for this bourbon; it makes for a perfectly enjoyable, next to effortless dram.
Then of course there’s the price, which is also key to why I’ve revisited this expression a few times. Local stores tend to charge over $30 for it, but chains often sell it for $25 after tax. This puts Evan Williams Single Barrel in the same rough price range as Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey 101, Old Forester 100, and Bulleit, just to name a few. That’s some stiff competition, the kind that would make for a good blind flight. For my money, this Heaven Hill contender fights comfortably among its rivals thanks to a simple but effective drinking experience. Combine that with the proven single barrel consistency (in my experience) and specific age statement on each bottle, and you have a bourbon that practically begs revisiting.