The Evan Williams ‘bottled in bond’ White Label is produced and matured at Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown Kentucky. Though details are not easy to find, White Label likely uses Heaven Hill’s Bourbon mashbill – 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Barley, a bill shared with the Parker’s Heritage Bourbon releases, as well as Elijah Craig.
So, bottled in bond. What’s the deal with that?
Bottled in bond products adhere to specific strictures outlined by US federal law. Lots of blah blah blah. I won’t be completely comprehensive here, but what’s important to know, as far as flavour might be concerned, is that anything labelled as ‘bottled in bond’ is the product of one distilling season, is the product of one distillery, one distiller, and is bottled at 50% abv. Respectively, this puts restraints on the size of the batch (depending on the production capacity of the distillery), the singularity of the flavour profile (depending on the size & variability of the batch), and the purity of the whisky (depending on the abv it departed the cask at). The bottled in bond classification has a solid feel, but there are actually a lot of elastic factors at play, when you break it down. If the Bourbon sitting in your glass right at this moment is classified as ‘bottled in bond’, what does that actually mean about the flavour of that whisky? Well, the optimistic among us would say, ‘it depends’.
Here are my thoughts on this bottled in bond offering, the Evan Williams White Label:
The plastic cap on the bottle twists off with a click. In the glass, the spirit is a rich burnt amber in colour. Dark, even for a 50% abv whisky. Rather appealing for a Bourbon under $40.
A mild woodsy-ness, with a buttery balance. Not like the big smack of wet soil that you get in Buffalo Trace, but there’s still something damp and earthy going on. A slow autumn walk in a deciduous forest after the rain. Tame aromatics, nothing really jumping out ahead of anything else. Lacking in an overtly oaky, rich, vanilla signature. A thread of grain husk mingles with caramel cubes. Mash aromas are definitely present. All said, an unimposing whisky, compared to others in the same category with similar specs. Absolutely no sharpness on the nose. Whispers of very fine barrels.
Predominantly grainy and yeasty. A raw, toasted nuttiness comes out on top, to the exclusion of any sort of oaky punch. Boiled & buttered corn on the cob, chewy corn skins and all. Taken as a whole, the spirit doesn’t have a profound flavour, but it strikes its own sort of balance, ending off with a tingle of caramel. Finally dry, and desolate.
This is a highly drinkable spirit at 50% abv. There are many American whiskies bottled at lower abvs that are considerably rougher. One thing that really stands out about the Evan Williams White Label is the almost complete lack of harshness on the palate, or burn on the way down. In fact, on the tongue, it comes off sweetly. But that sweetness vanishes after it leaves the palate, and it vanishes fast.
Creamy and succulent. A little bolt of sharpness cuts in, then disappears. Pleasant.
Does the ‘bottled in bond’ certification sound cool? Check. Does it guarantee that you’re going to get an excellent Bourbon? Probably not, though it does ensure some important production details. The bottled in bond Evan Williams White Label delivers some interesting flavours, and is generally inoffensive. All said, it’s probably better off for being bottled no lower than 50%. Could you experiment with this whisky in cocktails? Absolutely. Is it lip smacking & mouthwatering on its own? Not exactly. Drinking neat, I’ll admit that it delivers a thoughtful experience, and given the option, belly up to the bar, I would order this Bourbon, and happily drink it straight. However, if you’re looking for a spirit to enliven your heart, served straight up, your money is probably best saved and spent elsewhere. On the plus side, dollar for dollar, pound for pound, this Bourbon punches well above it’s weight, compared to others in the same price category. If you find yourself with a hankering for Bourbon, and $40, and only $40, in your pocket, the Evan Williams White Label will be your best bet.
What do you think? Leave a comment below. Feel free to give your opinion and correct me on any facts I’ve bungled. Cheers.