Evan Williams Black Bourbon Review


By Richard Thomas

Rating: C+

It says it right there on the bottle: “Kentucky’s 1st Distiller” and “Since 1783.” Although some legendary figures in bourbon history predate Evan Williams, the Welsh immigrant was the first to set up a commercial distillery, and in what was then the American frontier before Kentucky was a state or the debate on the U.S. Constitution had even begun. It’s a lucky thing for the Evan Williams legacy that he collected the river wharf dues for the town of Louisville, since that cemented his place in the records on top of putting some extra coin in his pocket.

In the modern context, Evan Williams Black Label is the #2 mass market bourbon, right after Jim Beam White. Even so, I have generally thought of Evan Williams as the true sleeper of big name bourbons. Despite the healthy sales numbers, I see Jim Beam or Wild Turkey on bar shelves far more often than Evan Williams, making it more of a liquor store favorite. That ought to change, if for no other reason than it is hard to match this bourbon’s low price and solid quality.

The Bourbon
Evan Williams Black is reputed to be based on mostly five to seven year old bourbons, and bottled at 86 proof (43% abv). Compare that to the eponymous Jim Beam White, which is quoted at four to six years and definitely bottled at 80 proof.

The color is in the vein of light amber, like a coppery honey. The scent is corn sweet, leaning into citrus sweet, with a hint of vanilla and a dash of rye spice cinnamon.

On the palate, the bourbon has an unremarkable feel, neither thick nor thin. The flavor kicks with a solid current of oak to start, with a layer of that corn-leaning-to-citrus sweetness underneath. A pinch of rye spice emerges about in the middle, along with a trace of oak. The finish is lightly sweet, with a moderately warm and mid-length run.

The Price
Evan Williams is a decent mass market bourbon. Some thing it is better than the others, and some do not. That is just a matter of opinion, but what isn’t is the price, usually just $11 or $12 per fifth (750 ml) in most of America. Cheaper than that runs to rotgut.

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  1. The most underrated bourbon around. Period.

    • I completely agree, JR. Especially if you’re mixing – it makes no sense to use Makers Mark or Knob Creek in a julep when Evan Williams does just as we’ll, for a third of the price.

    • I’m having my first right now. Real nice stuff, this is perfect for a after work treat. Better than jb black or dc in my opinion.

    • Yeah. Almost done my second one. I better stop while I’m ahead. Happy wife, happy life.

    • Evan Williams is one of the few bargains left in the world of bourbon whiskey.
      The white label Bottled In Bond version is even better and still only $13.99 in my market.

  2. How does it stack up against Jim Beam White label? Perhaps you should do a comparison review and include Heaven Hill Straight Kentucky Bourbon as well as Hogs3 Bourbon, why not have an old wild west bourbon shootout featuring the American frontier bourbons and some of the newer ones. Love Jim Beam white label though. Willing to give Evan Williams a try.

  3. Evan Williams achieves the nearly impossible. An excellent product at an attractive price. Lots of complexity and flavor, good succinct finish. Few bourbons taste as good and yet many cost lots more!

  4. Over ice, or a little water, or straight, just good, smooth stuff

  5. sitting around the firepit on a mild midsummer night sipping E.W. and watching the lightning bugs pestering my basset hound ,in the company of friends,not much can beat it

  6. My new choice as it has a little kick on the palette with a smooth taste. Definitely under rated for the overall taste and price. Very smooth and not overwhelming, and leads me to say excellent on the rocks, straight up, and superb for mixing in your favorite cola, or lemon lime and more.

  7. truely a fine bourbon for the price. Enjoy over a few ice cubes while relaxing. Oh and the Evan Williams honey does wonders for a cold.

  8. Agreed, this is a nice bourbon for the price.

  9. The best working mans bourbon out there. I only buy two bourbons. Evan Williams for my everyday sipping bourbon or for mixed drinks for the wiener-less crowd and Wild Turkey 101 for when ultra snooty guests show up. That’s all one needs. Keeping life simple.

  10. I’m a fan of Jim Beams Devils cut but just bought my second bottle of Evan Williams Black label. Excellent taste and smoothness in my opinion.

  11. Agreed. Evan Williams Black is my favorite. Not only because of the low price, but for it’s great taste. I usually have in with a few cubes. It’s accompanied me on many a Night by my fireplace. It’s a steal and I hope we Bourbon lovers keep it a secret. I always have it and Duncan Taylor 12 y.o. blended Scotch in my liquor cabinet; then, along with a Loowit Brewing (of Vancouver, WA, USA) Grimlock Rye Porter, I listen to John Lee Hooker growling: “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer”.

  12. By the way, I disagree with the Whiskey Reviewer on this site who gave a C+ for Evan Willams Black.
    When the great price is factored in, EWB might be the best choice for Bourbon out there. It really deserves at least a “B”.

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