Evan Williams is perhaps one of the most iconic Bourbon brands today. That and Jim Beam (don't get me started on Jack) are the top players sales-wise. Most of us are familiar with the Black Label, which pretty much keeps Heaven Hill in, pardon the pun, the black. Then, there's my favorite budget Bourbon, the Bottled-in-Bond White Label. The lesser-known brethren are the Single Barrel, 1783, and Green Label.
But, a 12-year old Evan Williams? Red Label? What's that all about? In the United States, Red Label is a distillery exclusive. It even comes with a necker label that says Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which is their microdistillery in Louisville. My understanding is that Red Label is also sold in Japan. It is bottled at 101° and runs about $129.99. Whoa... isn't Evan Williams a budget brand?
It is born of the same distillate as any other Evan Williams product: 78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. It is charcoal-filtered just like any other Evan Williams product. It is aged in the same #3, new charred oak barrels like any other Evan Williams product. The big difference is proof and age. But, is that worth a nearly 6-fold premium? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.
Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Red Label appears as your run-of-the-mill Evan Williams Bourbon. It offers a mellow amber color, and it left a medium rim with fat, wavy legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.
Nose: This Bourbon produced initial aromas of nutmeg and caramel. Underneath those were corn and mint. Finally, a totally unexpected but distinctive bubble gum smell. When I inhaled through my lips, it was only bubble gum.
Palate: When the whiskey crossed my lips, it was much thinner and lighter than I would have otherwise expected. At 101° I'd assume there would be some warmth. Instead, it was soft. On the front of my palate, it was the very familiar corn and oak. Mid-palate was also the predictable vanilla and caramel. The back was new: clove, nutmeg, and cocoa.
Finish: The finish was also atypical of Evan Williams. It started with toasted oak, then gave way to clove, which then almost immediately switched gears to sweet, creamy caramel. I found the finish to be long-lasting and pleasurable.
Bottle, Bar or Bust: Was this Evan Williams expression good? Most certainly. Was it $130 good? No, not to me. That's difficult for me to admit because I'm a fan of all things Evan Williams. But, I can't justify the mark-up over their standard expressions. I can't rate this a Bust because it is a good Bourbon. But, this is something you should definitely try before committing to, and as such, it takes a Bar rating. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
- Bottle = Buy it
- Bar = Try it first
- Bust = Leave it
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.