Many of you have probably passed up on a bottle of Evan Williams black label when you’re browsing up an down the liquor store aisle. It’s usually on the bottom shelf and looks very similar to the Jack Daniel’s packaging. You might have even written it off as a Jack Daniel’s knockoff. I have a fond history of the old Evan Williams Black label, or as we called it back in college E-Dub. So when I came across this bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003, needless to say I was excited to try it and see what else Evan Williams had in store for me.
A little backstory on this bourbon, each year the master distillers at Heaven Hill, Craig and Parker Beam (last name sounds familiar doesn’t it?) set out to find barrels that fit their requirements for this single barrel selection. This year’s vintage the 2003 is drawn from barrels that were filled way back, 10 years ago! Each of the bottles has the vintage labeled on it so that you know exactly how old your bourbon is. The Beam boys know exactly where to go to get the best whiskies for their single barrel. They know after many years which rickhouses to go digging around in, and they tend to go to the top floors, where there is the most sun, most air, and the best ventilation.
This bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 that I picked up is from my local store, Red Spirits, where they participated in selecting their own barrel for bottling. This is a pretty awesome act that they do from time to time with different bourbons. In fact it’s where I got a couple of bottles of Blanton’s with their logo printed on the cork inside. As I said above, when I came across their hand selected bottles I knew I had to pick it up. Well let’s hop into the review and take a look inside at this bourbon and see how it stacks up to other single barrels.
If you’re aren’t paying attention then you might not recognize this Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 on the shelf. The packaging doesn’t really stand out and scream at you. Which is probably a good thing because then it leaves more on the shelf for me to pick up. The bottle is a fairly traditional shape that is similar to the Belle Meade bourbon bottle. What I love about this bottle is the black wax that acts as guarantee seal. It’s similar to the Maker’s Mark wax, except they don’t let the wax roll down the bottle. Instead that it has a nice clean line on the seal.
The label on this bottle is very understated as well. It’s a pale thin vertical strip with a bold black cross strip that bears the only resemblance to the original Evan Williams bottle. At the top of the pale strip there is a vintage stamp. This year, the 2003 vintage is stamped on in a bright red color in a circular stamp that acts as a mark of approval from the distiller. Under neath the Evan Williams crest lies an unusual mark that states “Hand Selected by” and then has the logo of the spirits store where I purchased the bottle. This is a slightly different label than the original Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 uses.
My favorite part of this bottle is on the back label. I’m obviously a sucker for anything that is authenticated by hand. It gives me a special feeling that something isn’t mass produced and that someone took some of their precious time to mark on this label. The back side indicates the date that this bourbon was barreled, which barrel, and the bottle date. To me, it doesn’t get any better than that. You know exactly how long it aged and where it came from. So if you like this barrel’s flavor chances are you can go and get more of it. You’ll just have to track it down. Luckily for me, my store purchased an entire barrel, so I know I have a good chance of picking up some more if I so desire. Well let’s hop on into the review and see what this bourbon has to offer.
The nose on this Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 has a very bourbon-esque essence. Now I know that’s not very descriptive, but sometimes the scents are just so spot on that’s the only way to describe it. The most common notes I picked up were vanilla, caramel and wood. Now if that doesn’t describe bourbon to a T, I don’t know what does. There was also another note that kept coming up, there was a nice dose of spice that followed all the other notes out of the bottle. I couldn’t quite pinpoint it, but there was a nice tingle on the last part of the nose that makes me think it was cinnamon.
On the palate is where this Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 really began to show itself. On the front end there was a blast of sweetness that sat lingering until it was taken over by the spice that stayed on the tongue. The vanilla was the most dominant note here that carried all throughout the tasting. The cinnamon that I picked up in the nose was more prominent on the palate. When all these flavors combined I got a nice sense of maple syrup. As I said before the flavors that I picked up are some of the most common flavors found in bourbons today. I love that master distillers found barrels that exemplify the true taste of bourbon and released their own creation on what exactly they think bourbon should taste like.
The finish on this bourbon was nice. Not too long, but not too short to leave you underwhelmed. I like to call it a medium finish. There was that nice bourbon burn, it wasn’t overpowering and didn’t bring me to my knees. It was a comfortable burn that was pleasurable. A nice hint of oak popped up in the finish to ease some of that spice that I sensed in the palate. This Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 had a nice mouthfeel to it. It didn’t quite coat the entire tongue, and ran off a little quicker than I prefer. But it was still enjoyable.
Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003: 9/10
Honestly, it’s hard to find a single barrel bourbon for under $30. I still can’t believe that the Four Roses Single Barrel is $30. So imagine my surprise when I found this bourbon at $25. To me this bourbon has all the great flavors that other great bourbons have, it has a great pedigree to it. For me it fell short on being just a bit different. I felt like there was nothing that really made it stand out and be it’s own bourbon. With most bourbons I can attribute a specific flavor to them where I can denote ok that was different and now I can pick that out of a lineup. With this Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003, I couldn’t really do that for some reason. I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing or a good thing, that’s just my observation. Still it’s an incredibly tasty bourbon and for $25 you have to at least try a bottle, if you can find it.
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