Evan Williams Bourbon is second only to Jim Beam among Kentucky Bourbon sales in the USA, and has cultivated a reputation among bartenders and whiskey aficionados as a solid budget bourbon. Evan Williams is distilled in Lexington, Kentucky and bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky by Heaven Hill distillers. Like many Heaven Hill whiskey products, the Evan Williams line is produced with a mash bill of 78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. Heaven Hill produces numerous other product lines including Elijah Craig Bourbon, Pikesville Rye, Rittenhouse Rye, and PAMA pomegranate liqueur.
In This Guide
History and Myth
According to the marketing and branding of Evan Williams Bourbon, the original Evan Williams was a Welsh immigrant who founded Kentucky’s first legal distillery in Louisville, sometime in 1783. However, the current iteration of Evan Williams Bourbon was only introduced in 1957, and has no direct connection to the original Evan Williams beyond bearing his name. In addition, some historians dispute the date of Williams’ arrival to Kentucky, and the claim that he was the first distiller in the state.
- Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Easily distinguished by its black label, Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon is bottled at 43%ABV and serves as a solid cocktail bourbon and a good budget bottle for sipping neat. The bottle previously came with a 7 year age statement, but that designation disappeared in the 2000’s. In order to be labeled a “Kentucky Straight” Whiskey it must be aged for a minimum of two years, however, Evan Williams claims its black label bottling is aged for at least four years.
- Evan Williams 100 Proof Bottled in Bond
Identifiable by its white label, Evan Williams 100 Proof Bottled in Bond is a stronger version of its classic expression. Meeting the government requirements to be labeled “Bottled in Bond” means this bottle is the product of a single distillery and a single distilling season, aged in a US government bonded warehouse for at least four years, and bottled at 50%ABV. Praised by many bourbon aficionados as a solid quality bourbon for a budget price, this bottle is a good buy if you like Evan Williams but want something a bit stronger to sip on. It’s also great for cocktails, adding a potent kick to drinks like a whiskey sour or an old fashioned.
- Evan Williams 1783
Bottled at 43%ABV, Evan Williams 1783 is the brand’s small batch offering. Selected from fewer than two hundred barrels, the small batch is named after the year Evan Williams supposedly founded his distillery. With a nose of oak and vanilla, a palate of honey and oak, and a slightly sweet finish, this bottle is aimed to capture the interest of those who are looking for something a bit nicer to sip on.
- Evan Williams Single Barrel
Evan Williams Single Barrel, as the name suggests, is bottled from single barrels selected by Evan Williams Master Distillers. Weighing in at 43.3%ABV, the single barrel offering is another example of what Evan Williams has come to be known for: Bang for your buck. Each bottle of EW Single Barrel comes with the date it was barreled, the date it was bottled and the barrel number printed on the bottle.
- Evan Williams Flavored Options and Seasonal Products
In addition to bourbon, the Evan Williams brand also produces a line of flavored whiskey liqueurs aimed to compete with Jack Daniels flavored offerings. Currently Evan Williams offers Honey, Apple, Cherry, and Peach flavored whiskey liqueurs. They also produce Evan Williams Fire, a cinnamon flavored whiskey liqueur to compete with Fireball. During the fall and winter seasons, Evan WIlliams produces Evan Williams Kentucky Cider and Evan Williams Southern Eggnog.
Evan Williams Pricing
Below are the latest Evan Williams prices.
|Evan Williams Bourbon||750ml||$14.29|
|Evan Williams Bond Bourbon||750ml||$16.99|
|Evan Williams Single Barrel||750ml||$29.99|
|Evan Williams 1783||750ml||$17.99|
|Evan Williams Flavored (Apple/Peach/Cherry/Honey)||750ml||$14|
Evan Williams Alternatives
- Jim Beam
Always at the top of the list for best selling kentucky straight bourbons, Jim Beam is one of Evan Williams stiffest competitors. Jim Beam’s white label is comparable to Evan Williams Black label bottle. However, Jim Beam is bottled at 40%ABV while Evan Williams sits at a slightly stiffer 43%ABV. Considering the price, I give the edge to Evan Williams here.
- Wild Turkey
Wild Turkey is another solid bourbon in the budget category. While the standard bottling is fine, It’s Wild Turkey 101 that really shines. At 101 proof, it’s comparable to Evan Williams 100 proof BiB. Head to head, I have to go with WT101 over Evan Williams 100 proof, but not by much. Both are good bottles for a bargain and you can’t go wrong with either one.
- Buffalo Trace
Buffalo Trace is a small step up from the Evan Williams standard black label, both in price and quality. However, Buffalo Trace compares favorably to Evan Williams 1783. A few years ago, Buffalo Trace began quietly receiving a lot of praise from the bartending community for its quality and reasonable price. Due to it’s unexpected popularity, Buffalo Trace actually began to fear a bourbon shortage, and dedicated 1.2 billion dollars to expanding its facilities in order to raise production. It’s a bottle to look out for if you want to move up slightly in quality from Evan Williams or Jim Beam but don’t want to break the bank.
Evan Williams is a bottle often reached for by cocktail bartenders due to its quality and budget pricing. The 100 proof BiB is great for cocktails, adding a little extra potency without throwing a drink out of balance. It’s also a good bourbon to experiment with when trying different infusions, as a mistake won’t hit your wallet quite as hard as some other bottles might. Give these two cocktails a shot next time you feel like a whiskey drink.
- 45 ml Evan Williams Bourbon 100 proof BiB
- 22.5 ml Campari
- 22.5ml Sweet Vermouth
Stir with ice, strain into a chilled coup or over a large cube. Garnish with an expressed orange twist.
As with its cousin the Negroni, the boulevardier hinges on a balancing act between its three parts. Upping the ratio of bourbon to other ingredients helps tame the bitter Campari and keeps the bourbon flavors from getting drowned out. It also helps to consider the flavors present in the brand of vermouth you use. Personally, I favor a blend of Cinzano Sweet Vermouth and Carpano Antica Formula for this cocktail.
New York Sour
Many of us first met the whiskey sour as a standard pour of Jack or Jim diluted with sour mix from a soda gun at our local dive. This interpretation doesn’t do the classic justice. A whiskey sour can be made in two styles. The “Boston” sour is whiskey, simple syrup, lemon juice, bitters and egg whites. The “New York” whiskey sour drops the egg whites and adds a red wine float.
- 60 ml Evan Williams Bourbon
- 22.5 ml Simple Syrup
- 22.5 ml Lemon Juice
- 15 ml bold red wine
- 2 dashes bitters
Add all ingredients except red wine to a shaker and shake with ice. Strain into an old fashioned glass over rocks, or a coupe and float the red wine over the top.
You can use the back of a bar spoon to help with the float. The end result should be a beautifully layered cocktail. I recommend a full bodied red wine like a malbec or pinotage for this drink as it will help balance out the sweetness of bourbon and simple syrup. If you want to change this drink up, try making a flavored simple syrup or infusing your bourbon. Strangely enough, coffee infused bourbon works well here.