Whiskey Name: Evan Williams 23 years old
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Whiskey Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Release Date: 2014 (probably)
Price: Really depends how lucky you get at auction. Expect it to sting.
Mashbill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malted barley
Introduction/Background: Whilst Evan Williams the man did his drinking at the back end of the 18th Century, the brand Evan Williams is considerably more juvenile. Put together by Heaven Hill back in 1957, it’s most recognisable for its entry-level black label edition.
Today’s pour is less entry-level. Any bourbon in this neck of the woods age-wise vanishes as soon as it hits the shelves; frequently considerably earlier than that. A few years back a certain Mr Murray said especially nice things about this one, and the upshot of all this is that Evan Williams 23 is rather thin on the ground.
This sample ended up in my glass after @MCRBourbon asked for my opinion on it. It tasted rather different to an EW23 he had bought and loved previously he said, and he was interested to know my thoughts. So here they are.
Appearance: Dark, as you’d expect after 23 years in casks.
Nose: Deep and very woody. Possibly too woody. Proof stampedes out of the glass in rather raucous fashion for one so venerable. Following closely behind is a mélange of burnt orange, cola and a touch of tropical fruit. There’s also a heavy note of stewed tea though … my soul is prepared for tannin when I come to taste this. It’s a complex nose, but the oak rather shouts over everything else.
Mouth: Palate is luscious and velvety, though initially less complex. A few seconds of deliciously deep caramels … and then the oak kicks back in, and the velvetiness is bludgeoned by anticipated tannin. Lots and lots of nuts. Some old furniture and leather further underline this pour’s considerable years. Deep; alcohol is less prominent than on nose. Also a bit less overtly oaky, until…
Finish: …everything turns slightly bitter. The nuts and leather endure; the sweet aspects have departed.
Value for Money: The days of “good value” EW23 are probably behind us realistically.
Summary: There is much about this bottling of EW23 to admire. @MCRBourbon reckoned it was a 2014 edition, which means there’s every chance that the liquid in the bottle is as old as I am, and it’s not often such bourbons appear in the tasting glass. Some delicious deep notes, and some excellent moments.
When it comes to the likes of Evan Williams 23, I expect the Earth to move. I expect to move into spheres to which few whiskies can transport you. Compared to what I expect of a bourbon with this price tag and reputation I couldn’t help but be a little underwhelmed. There are several pours for under 3 figures that offer more.
Overall Verdict: A fascinating experience, but this fellow should have been bottled a few years prior. Them’s the breaks when it comes to bourbon this old. Thanks so much to @MCRBourbon for the opportunity to taste it though.
Words by WhiskyPilgrim