Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon is the No. 2 selling Bourbon whiskey in the United States. Its price point — on the upper edge of the value segment — offers a great introduction to the broader bourbon category. Its traditional bourbon flavor profile makes it the perfect choice for the new whiskey drinker who wants to explore the bourbon sub-category.
Evan Williams touts a history that goes back to 1783, when Evan Williams founded his distillery in Kentucky. In fact, the words “Kentucky’s 1st Distiller” are emblazoned on the front label. However, the Evan Williams Bourbon offering we’re familiar with today was first introduced to the American market in 1957.
Evan Williams’ mash bill contains about three-quarters corn, with malted barley and rye rounding out the recipe. The use of rye grain contributes a spicy flavor to the finished product.
This blend of corn, malted barley and rye is considered a traditional bourbon mashbill.
Evan Williams is distilled at Heaven Hill’s Bernheim Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. It is produced by Heaven Hill Brands, the 5th largest spirits producer in the United States. Heaven Hill is based in Bardstown, Kentucky.
The Heaven Hill Distillery is a large, modern commercial distillery that uses contemporary techniques to produce its whiskey. This includes column distillation and the use of large, wooden rickhouse maturation warehouses.
Evan Williams is a sour mash whiskey, which we will discuss more in-depth in the next section.
A Look at the Label
Let’s take a closer look at that black label.
If you are reading this article in the whiskey section of your spirits store or on a barstool at your favorite pub, you might be considering whether to give Evan Williams a try. Hence the catch 22 — if you’ve never tasted Evan Williams Bourbon, how will you know whether you’ll like it?
Fortunately, whiskey labels offer some valuable information for bourbon hunters — if you know where to look. Sure, they contain a lot of promotional copy to promote sales. Most people make wine and spirits purchases based on price point and label alone, after all. But all spirits labels must be approved by government regulators. So, if you know which terms are tied to consumer protections, you are well on your way to becoming a savvy connoisseur or collector.
The first thing you may notice is the boxy bottle and black label. You might also notice Evan Williams on the same shelf, section and price-point as Jack Daniel’s. That’s because, in many ways, Evan Williams models its appeal to the Jack Daniel’s customer.
Kentucky’s 1st Distiller — Evan Williams was an actual historical character who distilled whiskey in current-day Kentucky during the 18th century. Today’s whiskey brand is an homage to the original distiller. According to marketing materials, he established his distillery in 1783 on the Ohio River in what was, at the time, the Kentucky territory of Virginia. It should be noted that the ‘first distiller’ claim is not regulated, and it comes with a few caveats. Most historians believe Williams did open the first commercial distillery in 1783, but illicit stills were likely operating in the region before his operation opened.
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey — This term is regulated by the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. First, it tells us the spirit was distilled, matured and bottled in ‘Kentucky.’ A ‘Straight’ whiskey has been aged for at least two years in a bonded warehouse. All ‘Bourbons’ must be made of at least 51 percent corn and matured in new American charred oak barrels. And to have the term ‘Whiskey’ on the label, the spirit must be made of a fermented mash consisting of 100 percent grain.
Genuine Sour Mash — A sour mash whiskey describes a specific fermentation practice where the whiskey maker uses a portion of a previous, terminal mash to start the subsequent batch. This practice owes its origins to sourdough breadmaking, which uses a similar process to seed yeast from earlier batches of dough. This helps create a hospitable environment for the yeast by acting as a pH and acidity check.
Extra Aged in Oak — This term sounds cool but isn’t regulated by the TTB. By definition, all whiskeys must be aged in oak, all bourbons in new American charred oak and all straight whiskeys for at least two years. The term ‘Extra Aged’ isn’t an age statement and does not tell us any additional information about the maturation process.
Evan Williams is sold for about $15 for a 750mL bottle. It is bottled at 86-proof, or 43 percent alcohol by volume.
It is considered a value segment whiskey, one that gives bartenders a great-tasting, high-margin bourbon option when building a mixed drink or cocktail menu. But it is also an excellently made bottle of bourbon that can hold its own in the glass served neat, or on the rocks.
- 2 oz. Evan Williams Bourbon
- 1 can or bottle of Ginger Ale or Soda Water
- 1 Lemon or Lime wedge (garnish)
Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour Evan Williams over ice. Top with soda and garnish with citrus wedge. Serve.
- 2 oz. Evan Williams Bourbon
- 1 can or bottle of Ginger Beer
- 1 splash of fresh Lime Juice
- 1 Lime Wheel (garnish)
Add ice into a copper mug. Pour Evan Williams over ice and add a splash of fresh lime juice. Top with Ginger Beer — the spicier, the better! Add lime wheel and enjoy.
This cocktail is a twist on the classic Moscow Mule cocktail and substitutes bourbon for vodka. For an authentic experience, use pearled or shaved ice.