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Evan Williams Black label is one of the best selling Bourbons in the world. It is Heaven Hill’s flagship brand and for a good reason – it is an excellent Bourbon. It is reasonably priced and tastes great. It is a Bourbon that can be enjoyed neat yet it is inexpensive enough that you don’t feel bad when people at a party mix it with a soft drink. I do think that if you mix it, it should be made into a cocktail like an old fashioned or a Manhattan. It is 86 proof and full of flavor. Heaven Hill has resisted the trend to lower the proof to 80 and I hope they continue to do so. There is no age statement but the label does say “Extra Aged In Oak”. From the taste, I would say that it is in part, more than 4 years old. I would not be surprised to find that they are using some barrels in the whiskey that are up to 8 years old.

The brand has been around for many decades. You can tell from the square bottle and black label that it was created to compete with Jack Daniel Black label. They include information on the label such that it is a sour mash whiskey and that it is charcoal filtered. Of course, most Bourbon produced is sour mash Bourbon and the charcoal filtering is not the “Lincoln County Process” filtration. It is simply filtered in the dump tank with activated charcoal before bottling. In the 1960s there were several Bourbons that had similar bottles and statements about being sour mash and charcoal filtered in order to compete with Jack Daniel Black Label. Imitation is nothing new in the whiskey world going back into the 19th century when many brands started being named “Club” in imitation of Canadian Club. It does not lessen the fact that this is a quality whiskey.

Evan Williams Black Label

Proof: 86

Age: No Age Statement

Nose: Vanilla and apples with a little ginger and allspice.

Taste: Vanilla, apples and peppery spices – ginger and black pepper, with a little oak. When tasted with a dried cranberry it takes the fruit notes out of the Bourbon and increases the spice with some old leather or tobacco notes coming out. When tasted with the pecan, a very creamy vanilla comes forward with the spice and oak.

Finish: Very long and dry with oak tempered by some lemon zest. The cranberry takes the lemon zest out of the finish but increases the oak and peppery spices. The pecan increases the lemon zest with the oak and spices.

I decided that I would pair this with an equally affordable cigar – a Nub Maduro. I find the smoke to be rich tobacco with some chocolate and coffee notes. The Bourbon brings out more vanilla notes and spice in the smoke. The smoke reduces the spice in the taste of the Bourbon but increases the spice in the finish. An excellent pairing for a spring day on the porch.

Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller