Bourbon Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel 2005 Vintage

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As you will learn from reading my blog, I am a big fan of Evan Williams bourbons. Evan Williams makes very good bourbon at a great value. The bottle I’m reviewing today, Single Barrel 2005 Vintage, was put in oak in 2005 and the label even tells you the exact dates it was barreled and bottled.  The Single Barrel Vintage is personally selected by their Master Distiller for this bottling.

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It was ranked #2 in the Fall 2015 Whisky Advocate’s Buyer’s Guide:

#2 – Evan Williams Single Barrel 2005 Vintage (barrel #292), 43.3%, $29
Complex fruit (clementine, pineapple, golden raisin) balanced nicely with honey, vanilla custard, and dusty corn, along with a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. An extremely versatile whiskey with its medium weight, easy to embrace personality, and subtle charms. Perennially one of the best values in whiskey.—John Hansell
Advanced Whisky Advocate magazine rating: 93

This bourbon has a spicy vanilla smell, is a little smokey, and I think strong caramel. Everybody smells different things in the same sample. To me it smells sweet and inviting. The first sips will give you the same impression. It goes down with a strong caramel taste and glides down very smoothly. It has a strong finish that should please most bourbon drinkers.  This is the type of bourbon you could drink any night and also dress up for a special occasion.

Aged: 9 years
Proof: 86.6
Color: Medium Cherry
Price Point: $27-29
Whiskey Advocate Rating: 93

If you want to find out even more about Evan Williams they now have their “Evan Williams Bourbon Experience” in downtown Louisville — I highly recommend it!

Bourbon Review: Angel’s Envy

Angel’s Envy is the creation of bourbon industry legend Lincoln Henderson. It is known as his masterpiece and until his passing in 2013 he watched over the entire creation process. In the process of aging bourbon in barrels there is a lot of evaporation. The portion that evaporates is known as the “Angel’s Share.” The name “Angel’s Envy” is derived from what is left in the barrel. It is bottled in a tall bottle with angel wings on the back of the bottle.

Angel’s Envy has a distinct spiciness. I, personally, detect a very strong caramel flavor. Others say they taste black cherries, almond, and raisins.   The bourbon is aged 4-6 years in American oak and finished for 3-6 months in port barrels. This is what gives it a sweet taste with a hint of cherry.

I will be the first to admit I don’t have a discerning pallet. What I like about a bourbon or whiskey is how it opens up and how it finishes. When my wife Lynn tried it for the first time, her initial comment was, “This is very smooth.”

I first tried it when it came out in 2010 and regularly keep a bottle around. It is one of the bourbons I like to keep around to sip and to introduce to friends who are new to bourbons and want to try something a little different.

Aged: 4-6 years
Proof: 86.6
Color: Very Medium Rich
Price Point: 750 ML $44.99 (Total Wine)
Whisky Advocate Rating: 93

Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey finished in a port pipe. This is veteran master distiller Lincoln Henderson’s newest creation, and it’s a beauty. Richly textured, silky, and well-rounded, with ripe berried fruits, candied tangerine, light toffee, maple syrup, and creamy vanilla, sprinkled with spice (cinnamon, hint of mint). Smooth, silky finish, and dangerously drinkable! The port pipe notes dovetail perfectly. Lovely just the way it is, but it’s begging for a cigar. My only gripe: why not 45 or 50% ABV? But I’m splitting hairs. I really enjoy this stuff!
(Spring 2011) Reviewed by: John Hansell

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Photo from http://www.angelsenvy.com

My 3+ Favorite Bourbons

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Talking about my 3 favorite Bourbons is a little like trying to list my 3 favorite cars. Pick a category: sports car, race car, weekend driver.   When it comes to bourbon is it neat, on the rocks, best mixer, or best value? How do you pick just 3 from so many good Bourbons? So, I will give this post a qualifier: today I’m talking about my favorite everyday bourbons I drink. Because, given unlimited money, supply, or special occasions you’re talking a whole different ballgame.

In my opinion, you can’t beat Blanton’s Original Single Barrel – either neat, or over a large ice cube (don’t let it get too much water in it). It’s easy to find, regularly on sale, and really smooth. I am also a big fan of 1792 (the year Kentucky joined the Union). It’s an excellent bourbon at a fantastic price point.  Next on my list is Woodford Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Blanton’s and Woodford are my 2 sipping whiskies on a regular basis. BTW, if you ever visit the Bourbon Trail, Woodford does an incredible “Corn to Cork” tour that I highly recommend.

If you are looking for a craft bourbon at a good price point, Old Pogue is one of my favorites. It’s spicy and complex, but the distillery is so small it’s not even available right now unless you find a liquor store with a dusty bottle left on the shelf. Go to their website and get on the waiting list; its worth the wait. Also, the Old Pogue tour is the subject of a future blog.

If you are mixing mint juleps or our house’s favorite drink, bourbon and ginger (with a lime), Evan Williams Black Label does the trick. In the Fall 2015 Whiskey Advocate Lew Bryson wrote an article titled “In Praise of ‘Table Bourbon’” a la the way French have “table wine.”

It’s a bourbon that good for everyday drinking-well made, ready for a cocktail, a simple highball, or ice destruction duties-and priced for everyday drinking, too. one of the best values in Bourbon. You can get a bottle of good bourbon for under $25, from the same distilleries, the same warehouses, the same barrels and mashbills as bourbons that are hyped, rare, and over $100 a bottle.

Evan Williams is a great “table bourbon.” You can find the 1.75L Evan Williams Black Label on sale at big spirits stores and grocery chains for $14.99 to $17.99 if you keep an eye on the ads. Well worth stocking up for mixing and parties. This is what we use for mint juleps at our annual Derby Party (more on that later this spring).

But, how can I not mention Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon, and Angel’s Envy Cask Strength (more on Angel’s Envy on Thursday). It’s hard for me to even stop there. That is why my bar cart has over 25 Bourbons on it. So, moral of the story, I’m having trouble narrowing my favorite everyday bourbons down to 3.  The beauty of today’s market is there are many bourbons for many tastes. Bourbon and whiskeys like wine and should and can suit your particular tastes. My opinion? Don’t listen to the experts, drink what you like.