While other American whiskey producers get a lot of attention, like Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill Distilleries often flies a little under the radar of most consumers. Although they may not get the same level of attention, Heaven Hill consistently produces exceptional products including Parker’s Heritage Collection, Larceny Bourbon, and their flagship Evan Williams Bourbon. Every year, Heaven Hill releases a unique expression of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon. The whiskey for this year’s release comes from a 2004 barreling and is in the 9-10 year range (ours was 9 years, 8 months old: Barrel 1, barreled on 3/19/04 and bottled on 11/16/13). Barrels used in this year’s release come from the top floor of Heaven Hill’s Rickhouse “Y” in Bardstown, KY right next to their visitor’s center. [Watch our video that discusses why where a whiskey is aged is as important as how long it was aged]. Heaven Hill puts the exact barrel, date it was barreled, and when it was bottled on the label – information that we really appreciate for a single barrel release.
Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon 2004 (43.4% ABV / 86.6 Proof, $26.99) – medium amber in color, the nose has a nice spicy character with oak, cinnamon, and clove spice complemented with caramel, pecan, and orange peel. The nose maintains a really nice balance between the sweet and the spicy, which are brought together by the acidity of the citrus. The entry for Evan Williams Single Barrel is lighter than the nose would suggest and is a delicious combination of honeyed vanilla and cinnamon. The entry manages to taste sweet without being overly sweet and has just the right amount of acidity to give it balance. The flavor progression of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage is fairly linear, with the flavors from the opening persisting into the midpalate where they are joined by oak, clove, pecan, an increase in orange peel, as well as an intensification of the cinnamon. The finish is long with cinnamon, oak, and honeyed vanilla.
The mouth feel of Evan Williams Single Barrel is superb, a perfect balance between soft and dry, and matches the flavor experience very well. This isn’t a whiskey that will blow you away on the first sip, but it is the kind of whiskey that really requires you to stop and explore. The balance, flavors, and exquisite delivery of those flavors in Evan Williams Single Barrel are really the mark of masterful craftsmanship and, like many of his whiskeys, Master Distiller Parker Beam speaks softly and carries a big barrel.
In an age of significant price creep on premium and limited American whiskey releases, it’s mind-blowing that Heaven Hill has priced Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage at $26.99. At this price, it’s simply one of the biggest bangs for your buck that you’ll find in American whiskey. Aside from the ridiculously low price, we really love the way that Evan Williams Single Barrel manages to deliver bold flavors without losing its balance. While we love the premium bourbon category, distillers can often be a little heavy handed with their bold flavors. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage has finesse, elegance and precision that you just don’t find with other whiskeys in this class. Put simply, this is great whiskey being sold at a fraction of the price that almost any other company would sell it at.
Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage Bourbon 2004 by Geoff Kleinman