While decent, this Vintage 2002 is very light in the taste and finish department. Not one of our favorite vintages.
Notes: This whiskey is produced at the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, and has a new visitors center the Bourbon Heritage Center (which sadly was about to open the week after we visited).
Close to both Buffalo Trace and Woodford Reserve Distillery if you are touring. Home of numerous other whiskies such as Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old, Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old Single Barrel, Elijah Craig 21 Year Old Single Barrel, Elijah Craig 23 Year Old Single Barrel, Henry McKenna, Old Fitzgerald, Fighting Cock and Cabin Still among others. This is a single barrel bourbon from ten year old barrels that are selected every year. In this case the statistics were; Barreled on 6/7/2002, Barrel #1, Bottled on 11/1/11. Previous reviews include the 2000 Vintage, the 2003 Vintage, and the 2004 Vintage. Sadly we had the 1984 Vintage and every year thereafter but never reviewed them. Those Evan Williams Vintages predate our website and we drank them before we got to write about them (fond memories but no detailed tasting notes alas !)
Appearance: Deep gold bronze color in the bottle, wears its age almost as well as its’ distiller (Parker Beam) did. Beautiful clear Baltic amber in the glass. On swirling, it leaves a thin oily coat on the glass with thin legs rapidly developing.
First Impression: Minty, grapefruit, apricots, persimmons, nutmeg, Vietnamese cinnamon, vanilla, new leather, some spiciness, with some char. A bit light and not as complex as some other vintages but a delicate delicate whiskey.
Taste: Toffee, corn, apricot again, fair dose of mint, vanilla, cinnamon family spices much like the bouquet. A slightly sweet start, light mouthfeel, Nice warming going down, without the burn you would expect for the price. Short, almost abrupt finish with some leather, dark fruit, oak, and char.
Drinks: While it worked in almost any drink calling for bourbon that we tried- Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and all the rest we tried it is a bit of a lightweight in mouthfeel, finish and general presence. While it is a good whiskey, it just does not stand up well to mixing.
Bottle: Bottle is the same as earlier releases but the labeling has changed. Black sealing wax with (thankfully) a good pull tab. Soft black wax and long pull tab make for an easy opening. Too many bottles have wax that is too brittle and hard to open and/or lack a pull tab which means you need sharp objects to open the damn things, which can be frustrating and dangerous. The bulbous neck makes the bottle easy to grip when pouring. The main body is slightly squat with rounded edges give it a nice effect and shelf appeal (in the store or on your own shelf). The clear glass show off the color of the whiskey to good effect and the trimmer, narrower label with a deckled edge has the legally required labeling and the important stuff on the back – barreled on date, barrel number and bottling date, and little more. The weight and heft of the bottle conveys a solid feel. Overall the design harkens to a scotch single malt bottle in overall influence and appearance.
Final Thoughts: The difference between a single barrel bourbon and a mass produced bourbon can be huge – and for only a few dollars more than what you would pay for a mediocre bourbon. While younger than the 12 year old that we used to reach for (and about the same money) the 12 year old has become a bit inconsistent of late. Also it is much harder to find ANY dated Evan Williams as they seem to be switching to a undated version – at least in the younger version below 18 years old. A bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage is usually a much safer bet and highly recommended- especially for the money. While this one is a bit of an underperformer, it is also very approachable for a novice whiskey drinker, smooth with a lot of charm, worth giving your whiskey virginity too without a backward glance or regret. So I guess it has its uses despite
Fast loading and easy to navigate. This one of the most comprehensive bourbon ( or any other spirit for that matter) website I have come across – and that is saying a lot! Extensive information and good pictures of how bourbon is made, the distillery, the bourbon heritage with reviews and ratings by different people and organizations of the different vintage years. Also the most extensive store of bourbon related gear and accessories in the industry.