Rolled out annually, the Evan Williams Single Barrel release is widely viewed as one of the best values in bourbon. Whisky Advocate honored it as one of this year’s best buys. I haven’t tasted enough bourbons to offer such an authoritative view, but having just finished off a bottle, I’m comfortable saying it’s pretty damn good.
I often get a whiff of peanut butter in my bourbon, which I sometimes see described by authorities more knowledgable than myself as “nougat.” On this nose, the peanut butter/nougat really comes to the fore, supported by a floral element. Despite the rich, brown color, it’s a rather delicate nose.
On the palette, the nuttiness gives way to a mix of caramel and ripe red apples, then fading into a lingering finish with that floral element returning. This is a medium-to-full bodied bourbon with a lot of character. The weight of the body contrasts nicely with the more ethereal nose.
There’s a fair amount of batch variation with this release, which is normal with any single barrel bottling. (I unfortunately tossed my bottle without writing the identifying information down.) Author Clay Risen remarked in a blog post that he was disappointed with the bottle he picked up, having not matched the excellence of the one he recently tasted at a bar. There’s a couple of other negative reviews out there of previous releases, with Bourbon Guy faulting last year’s release for excessive perfumery and Whiskey Detectives viewing the same release as unpolished.
But at $26 a bottle for a very well made bourbon, Evan Williams Single Barrel is pretty much a no brainer. If you see it around and haven’t tried it, pick one up.