Saturday, April 20, 2013

Evan Williams Black Label Review

While preparing my upcoming series on EWSB, Elijah 12, 18, barrel proof and PHC, I realized that I had not had the regular old black label in many, many years. Picked up a 200ml at a really sketchy place while dusty hunting (found a WT American Spirit!), so I thought I’d give him a shot for a quick review as the basic prototype of the whole Heaven Hill Range. For comparison is a bottle of EWSB 2000 (barrel 655).

Evan Williams KSBW, 43%ABV ($4.59 the 200ml, just found out it’s on sale for $11.50/ 750mL in PA)

Nose: Classic Heaven Hill and reminds me most of the Current VSOF. Mint, cinnamon lime rinds, caramel
Palate: Relatively thin, sweet entry. Lots of cinnamon and caramel. Vanilla is here but only a touch of actual “oak” flavor. Hint of light roast coffee.
Finish: Sweet and about 45s long. Echoes the palate and then finishes minty and with a very faint hint of gummy candy Overall I am shocked by how good this is. Where was this in college? Why would anyone drink JBW? Anyway, this will be my go to recommendation for anyone looking to save money and have a nice drink. 83/100

What is most notable is that this earns 3 points more than the EWSB for my palate (that review is upcoming). While the black is fresh and has a lot going on (especially like the cinnamon), the single barrel I have just tastes like very generic and watery bourbon (though the nose is trending toward nice.)


  1. Ryan,

    All great points. I feel the same way on the EWB, a heck of a great value for $19/half gallon. I usually only use it for a mixer though. Likewise, other bloggers seem to really praise with highest regards for the EWSB's. I am currently working on a 2000 edition, barrel 607 and noticing that it is getting better with a little air time and still holds up nicely at 86 proof. It was just "okay" at first pour. I still have a 2000 sitting in the pantry which is from Barrel 27 (not sure if barrel number really makes a difference?).

    Something intersting that I noticed on the store shelf the other day, which I am assuming to be the third dump of the Parker's Heritage - Blend of Mashbills. I picked up a bottle from the first dump, which I believe was around 131 proof. This newest release is barreled at 139 proof. Have you heard anything about this latest release? I am curious how it compares to the original release. Pondering picking up a bottle, but I haven't been able to find any reviews on the 139 proof. The store only recieved 6 bottles so I will have to act fast.

    Take care

    1. Hi Josh,
      I've not posted my formal review of the PHC. I don't have the info in front of me, but I think it was from the first dump. I really think that it misses the mark for its price. The nose is fantastic but it is overall pretty disjointed. I really wish they had released a 375 of each mashbill and let us blend our own. I think it would have been a pretty cool experiment with audience participation. Anyway, I've left a number of this year's PHC's on the shelf for $75 if that is any indication.

  2. Hey Ryan,

    Thank you for the review on one of my favorite value bourbons (EW Black)
    Can you do a side by side comparison of a blind of Heaven Hill Black?
    Both are 86 proof. Both are made by Heaven Hill. Both are really similar in taste.
    Both are similar price points.
    Anyways, I don’t think I could tell the difference in a blind taste test.

    Furthermore, if EWB and HHB are fraternal twins, than Elijah Craig 12 is their older brother.
    I enjoyed EC12 but the taste is way too similar to EWB and HHB for me to enjoy it @ the higher price.

    Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Nick,
      Good idea. We don't actually have HH black in PA, but if I see some in NJ soon I will check it out. To your other point, I really like the EC12 better: more proof, more age and while more expensive, still pretty reasonable.

  3. Ryan,

    Excellent point in regards to EC12.
    Who wouldn't want more proof, more age, and more flavor.


  4. All joking aside Evan Williams is fantastic it is 3 percent stronger than good ol' number 7 and it is most likely the best bang for your buck when it comes to whisky


  5. Interesting that you liked Evan Williams Black better than your single barrel. As a lover of the cheap, I always find it hard to justify the extra money for EWSB when EWB is so good already. EWB really blows most of the competition away for the price; other cheap bourbon brands need to step it up.

  6. OK well I got it because my standby Old Ezra 101 was not available and I was horrified. I thought this isn't bourbon it's defective.