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Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Review: Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon  82.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted February 02, 2016

Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a whiskey brand produced and bottled in Kentucky by Heaven Hill. This company refers to its entry-level whiskey as a ‘black label brand’, and as such it is meant to be the flag bearer of the Evan Williams line-up. The whiskey has no age statement; however the Evan Williams website tells us that it is aged longer than required by law. Straight whiskeys must by law be aged for 2 years in new oak barrels; however, if they do not have an age statement they must be aged for 4 years.  Thus we can deduce that the Evan Williams Straignt bourbon must be somewhat older than 4 years. (Thanks to a reader for pointing that out to me.)

Evan Williams SAM_1709In the Bottle 4/5

I snapped a shot of the long-necked Evan Williams Whiskey bottle on my back deck last fall, and that photo is shown to the left. The presentation is fairly standard. The black label with the white lettering works well for a ‘no frills’ entry level bourbon. As indicated above the labeling makes a claim of being ‘extra aged’, however the term is left ambiguous making it more of a marketing ploy than any real statement concerning the age of the whiskey.

Still I like what I see, and the presentation would not dissuade me from selecting the whiskey in a retail setting, especially as this is by no means an expensive whiskey.

In the Glass 8.5/10

In the glass the whisky has a nice amber appearance with the orange tones just starting to hint towards reddish copper. The initial aroma is nice with scents of corn-syrup and maple mingling with oak and wood sap. There are also pungent spicy tobacco aromas, a gentle hay-like grassiness, a few indications of raisins, bits of orange peel, and a mild influences of canned apricots in the breezes. A light banana-like aroma is hinted at. (On some days I notice the banana clearly, on other days I seem to have to search for it.)

All in all this is quite pleasant, and I am torn between scoring the whisky as an 8 or an 8.5 in this area of the review. Because of the complexity I sense on the nose, I opt for the higher score.

In the Glass 50/60

The aroma of the bourbon seemed to show me more complexity than what I am encountering across the palate. The whiskey is lighter than I expected, and it carries a light bite of astringency when sipped neat. (I am thinking that much of whiskey is much closer to 4 years than the Evan Williams Distillery cares to admit.)

Once I adjust myself to the whiskey, and then sip again, I taste caramel and lightly bitter oak spice with bits of honeycomb and maple following. There is a somewhat firm squeal of orange peel (which probably accounts for that initial astringency). Some walnut and almond flavours underneath providing some support elevating the structure of the whiskey. When I add an ice-cube, the whiskey releases some nice milk chocolate flavours which are accompanied by a winding grassy tobacco. The spirit is a mixer, although it is on that threshold where we can begin to sip the spirit with ice if we choose.

The spirit mixes very easily with cola and is a very good choice for a Buckeroo. I think it has a little more range than that, and so I mix a Fancy (see recipe below). The experiment with the shorter cocktail goes well, although I would be more inclined to mix tall drinks with the Evan Williams Straight Kentucky Bourbon.

In the Throat 12/15

The whiskey is somewhat bitter in the exit with woody sappy flavours lingering in the throat. There is a nice bit of caramel that pushes through, unfortunately so does a thin burn which is what forced me to add the ice earlier. With only a little more age to ease the astringency, the whiskey would have scored higher.

The Afterburn  8/10

The Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Whiskey is exactly what the producers say it is, a black label brand meant for mass appeal in tall Buckeroos. In a pinch it can be used for shorter cocktails, although that is not where the bourbon will shine. My score of 82.5/100 represents a very solid high ball mixer which can be enjoyed over ice as well.

You may read some of my other Whisky Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.


Suggested Recipe

Fancy Whiskey CocktailThe recipe I am recommending is based (loosely) upon the Fancy Whiskey Cocktail presented in Leo Engels 1878 book, American and Other Drinks.

Fancy Whiskey Cocktail

2 1/2 oz Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon
3/8 oz Orange Curacao
1/8 oz Sugar syrup
2 dashes Fees Cocktail bitters
lemon peel or lemon slice

Rim a chilled cocktail glass with sugar
Place the first five ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shakes frosts
Strain into a ‘Fancy’ chilled cocktail glass
Add a slice of Lemon or as I have done a coil of Lemon peel
(The added ice shown in the photograph is entirely optional.)

Enjoy Responsibly!

If  you are interested in more cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74   Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79   You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84   We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89   Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94   Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+        I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

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