Evan Williams is Heaven Hill’s flagship brand. The Black Label is their largest selling Bourbon and they have several extensions of the brand including a Bottled-in-Bond and a 12 years old Red Label. They are all excellent whiskeys. The brand is named for Evan Williams, one of Kentucky’s earliest distillers. Williams came to Louisville in the 1780s and quickly became a prominent businessman in the city. He had a brickworks, he was Warf Master and of course a distiller. His distillery was fairly large with three stills and he made whiskey. We know this because he was one of the people who actually paid his whiskey taxes at the time and in the Fenley-Williams Family Papers at The Filson Historical Society you can see his license to distill from 1799.
Evan Williams Bourbon is a traditional Bourbon made with corn, rye and malted barley. Most expressions are bottled at about four years of age, but the Red Label is aged twelve years. It was a product that was sold only overseas for many years because those were the markets that would pay the premium prices for aged whiskey. As the Bourbon demand increased in the United States, consumers started asking for this expression in the American market. Heaven Hill responded by bringing it back to the U.S. for sale in their gift shops at the distilleries. I am sure they would like to make it more available, but the supply of whiskey that old is small and they cannot support a full release of the brand to the U.S. market. If you want a bottle, you will have to come to Kentucky and purchase a bottle at the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville on Whiskey Row or at The Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown.
Evan Williams Red Label
Age 12 years old
Nose: Caramel apples, fine leather and baking spices – allspice and a hint of cloves. There is fresh cut oak wood in the background, almost sawdust, with a hint of wood smoke.
Taste: Vanilla and caramel with apples and pears and baking spices – cinnamon, nutmeg and a hint of clove. Tasted with a dried cranberry brings out some notes of dark chocolate and fruit making the Bourbon very brandy-like. Tasted with a pecan brings forward the apples and pears as well as the spices, but diminishes the caramel and vanilla.
Finish: Very pleasant with some dry oak wood, smoke and spice. The dried cranberries make the finish very dry with oak wood and smoke. The pecan changes the finish in that it is still dry but that is where the vanilla comes out – almost a cream soda sweetness.
This Bourbon is worth a trip to Kentucky to purchase a bottle. Today I am pairing it with a Caldwell “The T” cigar, a cigar with chocolate notes in the smoke. The smoke really brings out the chocolate and caramel in the Bourbon whereas the Bourbon makes the smoke richer in caramel.
Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach