Evan Williams remains one of the most popular bourbon brands in America. The Heaven Hill whiskey’s core line is also one of the most affordable bourbon lines on the shelf right now. The most expensive bottle in this blind taste test is $32, and that’s for a single barrel expression. While we’re not talking about budget bottles of whiskey, we’re certainly talking about very affordable and very easy-to-find bourbon.
For this blind taste test, we’re comparing and contrasting five bottles from Evan Williams core line:
- Evan Williams Green Label
- Evan Williams Black Label
- Evan Williams Botted-in-Bond
- Evan Williams Small Batch
- Evan Williams Single Barrel
The Evan Williams 12-year Red Label is still alluding my grasp. But since that’s really only findable in Kentucky, I’m not sweating leaving it off.
Overall, this tasting is simple. I’m tasting these blind and ranking them based on taste alone. I know I have preconceived notions about each one of these bottles — I tend to go on and on about the bottled-in-bond. So tasting them blind is going to throw all that pre-programmed nonsense away and just let my palate lead my decision-making. I’m very curious to see where my beloved bottled-in-bond lands.
Okay! Let’s dive in and rank some Evan Williams!
Part I: The Taste
This opens with a well-rounded nose of woody caramel apples next to a hint of leather. The taste has a holiday spice edge with a slight orange candy sweetness. The mid-palate leans into the sweetness with more of a honey vibe as vanilla dominates. The end is very mellow with a final note of apple candy very late on the slow fade.
Vanilla and leather lead the way with a distinct note of fresh and warm cornbread that’s just touched by an oak note. The palate holds onto that caramel apple flavor profile while the cornbread makes a very buttery and honey-forward return with a light hint of egg nog spices. The end is short-ish and dances through that honey-soaked and buttery cornbread, rich vanilla, caramel apple, and oak towards a final touch of brown spice.
This is visibly lighter. The nose is a little thin but still carries hints of vanilla and caramel with a touch of … Windex. The light palate lets the vanilla, caramel, and mild orange oil mingle on the tongue. The mid-palate lets the orange turn into orange candies then the finish arrives with a note of cornmeal dryness.
Roasted sweet corn with butter, vanilla pudding, and salted caramel apples lead the nose. There’s a touch of eggnog spice that accentuates the pear/apple candy vibe on the palate. The mid-palate sweetens towards a butter toffee that then slowly builds towards a finish that grows from a roasted and shelled almond to sweet and soft marzipan by the end with a hint of that pear/apple candy.
This is very similar to the last taste with plenty of vanilla creaminess next to salted caramel apples, mild eggnog spice, and a touch of pear. The taste is a bit more leathery with apple tobacco mixing with more vanilla leading towards that toffee. This time, the toffee sweetens back towards that caramel while still holding onto that final touch of pear candy.
Part II: The Ranking
5. Evan Williams Green Label — Taste 3
Average Price: $19 (1.75-liter bottle)
This is Heaven Hill’s signature bourbon mash bill with a touch of rye: 78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and ten percent rye. That mash is the same for their much-beloved Elijah Craig and Henry McKenna labels. This juice is aged for four years before it’s proofed all the way down to 40 proof with soft limestone water.
This was very obviously the Green Label just based on sight alone. Still, there was nothing extraordinary about this. It was very standard and very easy to drink, which is exactly the point of this expression. But, that Windex note on the nose was hard to get past.
4. Evan Williams Single Barrel — Taste 1
Average Price: $32
This is Heaven Hill’s hand-selected single barrel Evan Williams expression. The juice is from a single barrel, labeled with its distillation year, proofed just above 43 proof, and bottled as is.
I did not see this coming. I thought this would sneak into number two or one easily. But today, it just didn’t sing as it used to for me. It wasn’t bland or bad in any way, there were just tastier and seemingly more complex expressions on the playing field for this tasting.
3. Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond — Taste 5
Average Price: $18
The juice is standard Evan Williams that’s barreled in a federally overseen warehouse. Then, after those barrels are blended, the juice is just brought down to 100 proof, allowing a bit more of that Heaven Hill craft to shine in the bottle.
I also didn’t see this coming. The end of this is what threw me as it sweetened considerably and sort of blanking every other flavor note out. The Black Label building on that toffee towards almond that turned into a marzipan note was just more of what I was looking for today, I guess.
2. Evan Williams Small Batch — Taste 2
Average Price: $19
So this is a “small batch” in theory. The expression is a marrying of 200 barrels of bourbon from Heaven Hill’s warehouses. That juice is then proofed down to 45 proof and bottled as is.
This is probably the least surprising slot on this ranking. I really dig the new look of the Small Batch and the juice inside remains a very solid bourbon (as you can tell from the level of the whiskey in my bottle). This on a few rocks is a delight and this blind taste only solidifies that for me.
1. Evan Williams Black Label — Taste 4
Average Price: $15 (1-liter bottle)
This is the entry point for Evan Williams. The juice is a mix of four to seven-year-old barrels of the standard Heaven Hill bourbon. The difference in this bottle is that it’s proofed at a slightly higher 43 proof, giving it a slight edge against the Green Label.
I’m shocked. I often talk shit on this expression for being over-hyped, especially in the bartending community. But here it is, my number one pick. That mid-palate to finish really grabbed me and made me go back for more — and that’s pretty much all you can ask for in bourbon at this price point.
This hit really nicely today. There’s nothing left to say besides I should take this bottle more seriously.
Part III: Final Thoughts
Gooddamn, I love being proved wrong by my own palate! I would have put money on the Black and Green Label taking the last slots and lost. I also would have put money on the Single Barrel, Small Batch, and White Label battling it out for three, two, and one on the list. But this was clear cut. I didn’t hesitate for a second when I ranked these.
And that’s why we love doing these blind taste tests. There’s no better way to rank and taste some booze than blind. It takes all those assumptions and that advertising programming and replaces it with what’s in that glass and where your palate is. I guess my palate needs some cheap and easy bourbon right now.
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