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Evan Williams Single Barrel

Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel Kentucky Bourbon (1998) 92.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted April 3, 2010

Last year I purchased a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel Kentucky Bourbon, the 1998 vintage.  It sat on my shelf, waiting and waiting to be opened.  I had only one bottle and to be honest it looked so nice that I really did not want to ruin the look of my liquor cabinet by opening it.  It was in my “save for a special occasion” shelf.  Then something wonderful happened.  My good friend, Dennis was given a bottle as well.  He had no such compunction to save the elixir and he happily agreed to share some samples with me.   (In case you feel I was taking advantage of him, I should let you know that this is a mutual thing that we do,  I share, and he shares, and everyone is very happy as we both get to try many more wonderful spirits this way.)

Now Evan Williams Single Barrel whiskeys are indeed something very special.  They have been winning awards since 1990, in a vast variety of Spirit’s journals, magazines and contests including Gold Medals at the Prestigious San Fransisco World Spirits Competition for their 1993 and 1994 bottlings.  For more information on these awards you can visit the Evan Williams website.  (Evan Williams Straight Kentucky Bourbons are products of Haven Hill Distillers.)

In the Bottle  5/5

This is the way I think all premium spirits should be presented.  Each bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel has the date which it was set in oak on the label for all to see.   The 1998 vintage bottle I am reviewing is bottle number 413 set in oak on September 9, 1998, and bottled April 18, 2008.  The bottle is not only corked with a quality high density cork, but also wax sealed to eliminate any chance of leakage and evaporation.  I consider this to be an almost perfect presentation.  (I should also mention, that the stated proof on the bottle is 86.6 proof)

In the Glass 9/10

After taking a deep wiff of the air around my whiskey glass, I close my eyes.  In my imagination, I have just stumbled into a sawmill where they are cutting large rough timber beams.  I can smell the wood tannins exposed on the sides of the timber and the fresh cut wood grain scent is delightful.  Of course there is much more than oak timbers in the glass:  wild honey,  rich vanilla, toffee, caramel and hints of molasses rise from the glass in a rich vibrant aroma which is spicy and tannin filled.

I open my eyes and look at the whiskey again.  The colour of the spirit is a rich  copper and bronze which flashes in the light.   When I swirl the glass a myriad of different sized legs tumble down the side of the glass.  I get the impression of a youthful brashness within the spirit.  My sense is that we will have a lighter fresher bourbon than what I am accustomed to.

In the Mouth 56/60

There is indeed less oil on the palate for this whisky than I  normally associate with bourbon.  It is not thick and oily, but rather it has a cleaner, wetter mouth .  There is a brash vibrancy within the spirit which stems from the fresh oak which I enjoy thoroughly.  A bevy of spices fills  my mouth with zesty oak tannins combining with deep rich flavours of vanilla and honey.  A caramel toffee with accents of cloves and cinnamon tickles my taste buds, and fresh fruity accents abound.  I cannot shake that impression of large timbers with puddles of sap oozing from their sides in the sawmill.  This fresh oak grain and sap in the whiskey adds fullness to the flavour profile and helps carry the other tastes and sensations in its wake.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The finish is not what I would call silky smooth, but it is most enjoyable. The thick honey like texture in my throat which I associate with bourbon has been replaced by a wet, crisp swath of spice and oak which has no burn but leaves the back of the palate coated with flavour and fills the throat with a hot spicy roughness. These flavours last  in a long and satisfying exit.

The Afterburn 9/10

Wow!  This was really nice.  I am not a huge bourbon aficionado, but Evan Williams Single Barrel 1998 Vintage Straight Kentucky Bourbon hits all the right spots.  This is the kind of whiskey that I can appreciate and enjoy fully.

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


Suggested Cocktail

Where do I start with such a fine bourbon whiskey.  The intensity of the oak flavours and spices, just begs to mixed into a few premium cocktails .  The logical starting place is with what I call the triumvirate of classic whiskey cocktails.   The Whiskey Sour, The Old Fashioned Cocktail and The Manhattan.

I will start the triumvirate of great whiskey cocktails with a modified Whiskey Sour. Modified, because in my locale, real Maraschino Cherries are impossible to locate at any store. Instead that horrible trend to candied cherries in sugary syrup is all that is available. A Whiskey Sour needs that hint of true Maraschino, so I have decided to aromatize my glass with Maraschino Liqueur to gain the same taste element.

Modified Whiskey Sour

2   oz bourbon whiskey
1/2  oz lemon juice
1 tsp simple sugar
1/2 teaspoon Maraschino Liqueur

Chill a small rocks glass until it is very cold.
Aromatize the glass with Maraschino Liqueur.
(This can be done by pouring a little in the glass, swooshing it round and expelling any excess. The object is to coat the inside of the glass with a film of the Maraschino liqueur.)
Pour the bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar syrup into a metal shaker with cracked Ice.
Shake until the shaker chills
Strain into the chilled rocks glass.
Garnish if desired with a small slice of Orange.

The Old Fashioned Cocktail is so classic that even the most expensive whiskeys are right at home in this cocktail.  Here is a recipe for the Evan Williams bourbon.

The Old Fashioned Cocktail

2 oz bourbon whiskey
1 tsp simple sugar
1 dash orange bitters
2 large ice cubes
Orange Peel Garnish

Add the first three ingredients to a rocks glass over the ice cubes
Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink. (This will release the oil from the orange zest into the drink)
Discard the peel.  Or if you are adventurous add it to the glass and enjoy!

Rather than the regular Manhattan the last cocktail in my triumvirate will be a Perfect  Manhattan.  this will be just a touch sweeter and for my palate just a notch more satisfying.

The Perfect Manhattan (with bourbon)

2 oz Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon
3/8 oz Sweet Vermouth
3/8 oz Dry Vermouth
Dash of Orange Bitters
3 Large Ice cubes
Maraschino Liqueur to aromatize the glass

Chill a suitable glass until it is very cold
Aromatise it with Maraschino Liqueur.
Add the whiskey, the two styles of Vermouth , and the bitters with 3 large ice cubes into a Metal Shaker.
Shake gently to chill the mixture.
Spear a cherry with a long toothpick and place it in a chilled glass.
Strain the mixed ingredients over the cherry but do not add the ice.

The Evan Williams Single Barrel Whisky performed admirably and the Manhattan was indeed ‘Perfect”.


Now I will admit that these three cocktails are not necessarily original, but they are three of the most trusted whiskey cocktails and are eminently suited for a fine premium whisky. I did construct one last cocktail based upon the 1951 Martini.  (Click on the Link to find a nice write up on The Everyday Drinking Blog.)

I had trouble with the name of this cocktail, until I discussed the drink with my friend, Ben, of The Everyday Drinking Blog.  His suggestion was to name the cocktail after the horse which won the Kentucky Derby in 1951, Count Turf. Since the Kentucky Derby is synonymous with great bourbon I immediately agreed.

Count Turf(version 1)

Maraschino Liqueur
2 oz Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon
Small ice chunks
Orange Slice

Chill your cocktail glass until it is very cold
Aromatize it with Maraschino Liqueur.
In a metal shaker partially filled with small ice chunks, stir a healthy splash of vermouth to coat the cubes and dissolve any very small pieces of ice.
Discard the liquid, retaining the ice.
Pour in 2 oz  bourbon.
Strain into the aromatized cocktail glass and garnish with an orange slice.

Looking at the recipe, I realized  that the construction could be changed using a Maraschino cherry as the garnish, and the Orange liqueur to aromatize the glass as follows:

Count Turf(version 2)

Orange Curacao (Sub any quality Orange liqueur)
2 oz Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon
Small ice chunks
Maraschino Cherry

Follow the same recipe directions as above.

Now if you have been reading the other recipes you know that I cannot get any Maraschino cherries to make the version 2 of the cocktail.  I’m hoping that you trust my instincts and try this one on your own.  Maybe one of you can snap a picture and allow me to use it here in my blog.

And remember, the aim is not to drink more…it is to drink Better.



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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