According to Art Blakely, I am real, if I’m hearing the tune right, the beat right, the flights of the sax right, listening to “Am I Real?”. If you are going to be exploring whiskeys, you might as well have the right soundtrack.
Today—which is to say, starting in sometimes a bit after 4:30 in the afternoon, and clearly before the committee-approved five o’clock—I began my trial of Evan Willian Vintage Single Barrel, (barreled in May 2009, bottled in November 2017) and in true form first from a snifter, no ice (but a modicum of chill), and then with ice in an on-the-rocks glass. All the while scanning quite a number of reviews of the test material. With frequent meditative breaks musing on the music.
First, the report: Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage is a very good build off of the pretty-good-for-the-price Evan Williams Black Label, or at least that is my best guess, since both seem to share a similar mash. What I think is going on here is that Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage is allowed to sit in a particularly noted barrel for a few more years, and each year, and each barrel, is going to be a bit different, which is half the fun, and lot better, which is the other half of the fun.
The third half of the fun is that it is a high-corn bourbon (73% corn in the mash bill, if you must know), with most of the rest rye and barley, and so this meets with my taste in American Straight Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage is sweet, with fruit, and smooth enough for anyone but the most sensitive among us, and they probably shouldn’t be drinking in the first place.
A bit of burn out of the snifter, but having this bourbon with ice is nice, as this mellows this bourbon in a number of good ways, with the flavor carrying on with the dilution, with a notable finish. This is a delicious bourbon, especially given my proclivity for high corn, and there are a lot of fruit notes, and I’m sure other flavor notes, too, although any claim to deep complexity requires a footnote that tells readers they are in the presence of an extremely sensitive taster. I like American Straight Whiskeys in large part because there is a lot of taste profiles from one to another, and so while I won’t be drinking Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage all the time, I’ll enjoy Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage any time I have it.
At around $30-something, Evan William Single Barrel Vintage has hit the mark, certainly in this barreling, which puts this at nine years age, and if a decently made bourbon sits in a barrel for nine years, it better be a bit on the special side, and this bourbon is. A bit special.
Don’t get me wrong: Evan Williams is not God’s own answer to Plato’s challenge of the shadow on the wall, but then Plato never seemed to care for poets, so there you go.
One of the good reasons to explore single barrel bottlings is to appreciate the differences among the barrels, and in the course of my reviews review, I came across a lot of talk—and argument—about the various Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage vintages. I have nothing specific to contribute about the different characteristics among the various years, but since Evan William is marking barrel number, year casked, and year bottled right on the label, I can, with patience, start collecting different vintages and join the ruckus. Or I could live my life. Stay tuned.
You get similar sorts of information on some other single barrel bourbons such as Blantons, which is how I first stumbled across the fun to be had noting variations among barrels, but I don’t expect that I’ll often have two different Blantons bottles around at the same time. On the other hand, Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage is moderately priced, and if you pay attention to the barrel numbers, you can experience intra-brand barrel differences without having to get a co-signer for a loan.
Expect Evan William Single Barrel Vintage to go up in price (since by the very nature of single barrel supplies are more likely limited), but I bought this at $32.99, and that was in the Land of Sin-Tax, a.k.a., Cod, a.k.a., Boston Beans, a.k.a., Massachusetts. You can figure that if you live in Indiana, or Florida, you’re paying much less.
Evan William Single Barrel Vintage is a well-priced very good bourbon, especially if you are a corn-eater, although I need to spend some time doing a direct comparison with Jim Bean Black Label Double, which I can buy at $25.99. I find Black Label Double-Aged to be a Jim Beam I really like, and that is saying something as I don’t like most Jim Bean.
Meanwhile, my list of moderately-priced bourbons and ryes that are very good continues to grow, and at some point I’ll post about the quality/price differentials, although I’m happy to provide the lead: After a certain point, whiskeys at twice the price aren’t nearly twice as good. Better, yes, often, but not often all that much better.
Well, that is for another time. Right now “This Here” is playing, and god-bless Cannonball Adderley.
And if I have up to this point been unclear on what I think of the whiskey discussed above, please note that I’m ordering Evan William Single Barrel for the bar.