Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon (2000)

I must admit that Evan Williams is inextricably linked in my mind with cheap booze, given their ubiquitous black label bourbon, which can often be found for under $10 a bottle. (The black label, by the way, is an excellent value - a respectable entry-level bourbon at a rock bottom price, though not something that I'd be too inclined to drink on its own merits. But maybe that's a story for another day.) However, Evan Williams also makes a range of other products, some of which are on the fancier end of the spectrum. One of these is their single barrel vintage bourbon series: as the name suggests, it's bourbon taken directly from barrels of a given vintage, without blending with other barrels. The 2000 vintage is the latest to hit the shelves, and it's gotten rave reviews from whisky expert John Hansell, and the always excellent Drinkhacker. Given that, I just had to give it a shot.

The whiskey is a nice amber color, and comes in a simple but attractive glass bottle, with a wax seal, and hand-numbering on the back, indicating the barrel number (mine's #34), barreling date, and bottling date. The aroma is interesting - very sweet corn and honey scents contrast with spiciness and charcoal. Very complex, but it doesn't quite all work together. The flavor is also rather complex. It starts out like a fairly by-the-books bourbon, though citrus-heavy and very spicy. A bit of charcoal flavor then comes into play (puzzling, given that it's not charcoal-filtered), and then honey and vanilla. The finish is the weakest part - it leaves an odd medicinal taste and astringent mouthfeel, certainly not pleasant. I also found it to be a bit watery on the palate. Adding a touch of water brings some of the sweetness and citrus flavors to life, but dulls many of the other flavors.

It's a decent bourbon all in all, and quite fairly priced, but I'm not too impressed, especially after setting my expectations so high. It's quite possible that there's a lot of barrel-to-barrel variability, given its nature as a single-barrel whiskey. Not to be too cynical, but it's also quite possible that the real reviewers got sent samples from the best barrels!

If you're a bourbon enthusiast, then this isn't a bad one to pick up, but temper your expectations (or hope for a good barrel!).

Price: ~$26

Value: 16/20
Overall Quality: 15/20

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