Sour Mash Manifesto

Bourbon and American Whiskey

Evan Williams “Black Label” Bourbon Review

Forgive the lack of video, but I wanted to get to this review of the tried and true Evan Williams “Black Label”. Lately I’ve been on a bargain hunt spurned by a number of you returning visitors that have requested we examine some of these often overlooked whiskeys.

The folks from Heaven Hill make this bargain “juice” from the same mash bill (grain recipe) used for Evan Williams Single Barrel and their Elijah Craig products. John Hansell of Malt Advocate recently named it (along with Very Old Barton Bottled in Bond that I’ll soon be reviewing) as one of his “Best Buy” whiskeys of the year. Let’s give it a further look……….

Evan Williams “Black Label” Bourbon, 43% abv (86 Proof), $11

Nose: Caramel, cola, and cinnamon spice showcase a sweet nose that’s made more interesting by a sturdy backbone of oak.

Palate: Corn, cola, vanilla, and maraschino cherry syrup at the front of the palate with a good dose of cinnamon/all spice at mid palate. Like the nose, on the palate the sweetness is lifted by that familiar, and glorious oak. It’s a bit disjointed from the entry, but once the oak asserts itself you might be reminded of Elijah Craig 12 year old.

Finish: Caramel sweetness, light fruit, and oak veneer leave their mark in a moderate length finish.

Overall: Evan Williams “Black Label” lays its cards on the table right from the start, but there’s a great deal of quality here. It’s not particularly complex stuff, but who cares. It’s accessible, drinkable, and has a delicious combination of sweetness and wood that would appeal to a broad audience. Simply put this is well made stuff at a great price. Heaven Hill once again shows us that really good whiskey doesn’t have to be expensive. I’ll drink to that!

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.4 (Very Good/Excellent)


  1. I agree with your review of this bourbon. EWB is a very good pour for the price/quality ratio. Other than it’s lack of complexity, which isn’t present in any bargain bourbon that I’m aware of, there is nothing to complain about.

    Drink your Bourbon!

  2. Ever had the Evan Williams 1783? It’s often overlooked, but is a wonderful, inexpensive bourbon. It’s 86pf, just like the black label, but instead of being about 4 years old, it’s a mixture of ages that work out to about 10 years old. And it’s only about $14 a bottle!

  3. Nothing wrong with EWB at all, but I prefer McAfee’s Benchmark..and it is even a bit cheaper than EWB!

  4. EWB is my go to mixer when Im low on Jack no.7. Its great for the price. But I like the smokieness of JD7 more. But EWB is a best buy for the money.

  5. Jason – one that surprised me was the EW white label BIB. Fantastic price at about $10 a 750, great mixer and very drinkable neat. To me, it doesn’t taste like a bottom shelf bourbon even though it’s priced that way.

  6. EWB is very good bourbon for the money. My personal take: if you don’t factor in the price and had to give an opinion on just the whiskey, I’d rate it as “good”.

    @Greg – I’ll have to try the EW white BIB.

    BTW Jason, aren’t you supposed to be on the beach? Did you get the chance to do some dusty hunting?

  7. I’m picking up a handle tomorrow ( at $19.99) for personal analysis. I’ve converted my brother from Jack to Evan in the last year. He can’t tell the difference, and he’s paying half the money (and getting a bit more booze).

    Hope the vacation is going splendidly, Jason!

  8. lots of laughs Sam! Next time I’m picking up a bottle of cheap bourbon to help me drink off some of the stress of a particularly ugly week, I’ll remember to tell anyone who asks that it’s for ‘personal analysis’. I think that was unintentionally amusing.

    As for Jack vs. bargain bourbons, Jack may not be the best whisky in the world but I can always tell the difference. Out of interest, what’s the going rate for a bottle of Jack in the States thesedays? It’s £20-22 in the UK now. I believe that’s about $33-36! Pretty shocking.

  9. It’s $22 here in PA for a 750, about the same price as a handle of Evan Williams (when it’s not on sale). Given the 80 proof of Jack and the 86 of Evan, and then more than twice the juice in the handle, can Jack really be worth the difference?

    Evan has been gaining substantial market share of late, and this is more than enough reason for the momentum.

  10. “As for Jack vs. bargain bourbons, Jack may not be the best whisky in the world but I can always tell the difference. ”

    So true. Jack is def overpriced but I can always tell when Im drinking Jack vs other Whiskeys. Its def my favorite or mixing. I usually buy a handle of Jack and EWB. Ill drink my EWB when I just wanna get ripped since its cheap. But on a good night I just relaxing I reach for my Jack since I enjoy its flavor more. Most of the time Ill go threw 2-3 bottles of EWB before my Jack bottle runs out.

  11. Evan You hit a home run with your egg nog,egg nog,egg nog

  12. I love some EWB. You might think about an EWB and EW1783 comparison, as they are almost identical in price.
    I love them both. I find 1783 to be a bit richer and sweeter (cherry sweet) and EWB to be a bit “oakier” with a bit more of a punch.

    WT and OGD are my favorite bourbon lines, but I do love being able to have a $25 handle of EWB or 1783 to sip and not care if guests mix (I wouldn’t turn them down, but I’d prefer guests not mix my WT and OGD even if they aren’t terribly expensive).

  13. Even the green label is good and cheap. Less than $ 10.00

  14. no refinement. a massive bruiser. this menthol phenolic oak punch is off the scale for me. what is that? I had there single barrel years ago and it was outstanding integrated of flavors and oak regardless of this menthol i dislike.

  15. It is a hard and dense Whiskey. When I ad a splash of water and let it sit and soften up, I’ve found it to be quite good. Hard wood at the front followed by lots of caramel, not really any finish beyond a burn. Wonderful mouthfeel. I’m actually amazed at it’s price given how much better I find it to be than most of the Bourbons sitting one shelf up (Makers Mark etc).

  16. Bourbon snobs heap lots of abuse on this stuff. I love bourbon, but I’m not a bourbon snob. This is definitely NOT a top-shelf bourbon, but it is enjoyable and a very good value. I’m not going to be drinking it neat, but on the rocks after the ice melts into it just a bit, it’s a fairly nice dram. As others have said, it is lacking in complexity.

  17. EVB for me. I’m on a budget. Taste is excellent. I don’t get the Jack fanatics, who wants 80 proof? That was a disappointment when they did that. EVB stands out in the crowd. 1783 is up there too. Great price what a nice dilemma when I have to pick one up. Must try the EV single batch… it even has a cork.

  18. EW at first tastes cheap which i think 90% of the people would judge it by first taste, let alone the price compared to JD which makes it look like the bottom of the barrel. After consuming nearly a 5th of EW, I would have to say that I am sold. The price difference between the two is crazy. I would go with the EW for the most bang for the buck, but both are very good.

  19. I must admit I am a student in college on a budget. I used to drink knob creek as I could afford it but nowadays I find myself drinking EWB all the time! I am a nurse by profession. I love bourbon and jack d just doesn’t deserve recognition in this dispute. EWB is far better than jack for tthe money!$. As soon as I have the money I will buy a handle of EWB just to supplement my nursing career! EWB has been an awesome fit and I appreciate everything heaven hill has to offer!! Thanks for the invite! As I’m sure you can tell I had some EWBlabel tonight!! Good. Cheap. Bourbon!!!

  20. I’ve always been a bit of a snob about really inexpensive whiskies (although I can’t really afford even those), and I prefer some complexity of flavors, so I ignored EWB until I saw Jason’s review. On the first day I tried it, I loved it. I compare it to Jim Beam Black (which costs twice as much), but I really don’t like JBB because it’s so one-dimensional and harsh on the palate, and has no nose whatsoever. EWB has a healthy dose of cinnamon plus caramel plus charred corn sweetness (not overly complex, but nice), is much smoother than JBB, and has a pleasant, lingering nose. The sweet caramel aftertaste is a pleasant added surprise.
    Jason, I’m really loving your tour of bargain-basement brands. I’ve already found things in a $10 bottle I had been unable to find at 30. Who knew?

  21. Tried EWB Black label today for the first time. I like the sweetness taste compared to JD Black. And at half the price, it is a very good find. Glad My pocket book got the best of me. lol
    Greg F.

  22. In your opinion..

    I’m looking to sub Evan Williams Black Label in a cocktail that calls for Four Roses Yellow. Do you think I can I get away with it?

  23. Benny – sorry for the delay. Absolutely you can. Four Roses Yellow is bright and fruity so there will be a difference, but you can absolutely give it a go.

  24. I must say that in the last few months I have given up EWB completely, in favor of EW1783. It has exactly the same flavors, but appears to have been aged much longer, and has benefited greatly in mellowness, body, depth, and strength of flavors. And it costs only about $1 more. Jason, I would still love to see your take on 1783.

  25. Evan black label is my new choice whiskey can not go wrong for a ten buck fifth my friends! cheers mates!

  26. Just tried this and think it is a good buy.

  27. Evan Williams is so cheap and up front that it’s a no-brainer to mix with soda water or cola. On the other hand, Wild Turkey and Old Grand Dad are cheap, but are so good on their own that I don’t like to let them be mixed. Evan Williams Black Label is my go-to for bottom shelf mixer, but still good (no Jack Daniels or Early Times in my house!)

  28. Jason-

    Please acquire Evan Williams 1783 Bourbon.

    Personally my favorite.

    Interested to see how you review 1783 in comparison to Evan Williams Black Label and Evan Williams BIB.

    Amazing But True…….

    1783 Currently Priced Only 50 Cents Above Black Label At The Party Source.

  29. It’s hard to imagine there could be a better $10 bourbon anywhere.

  30. +1 for EWB. How can someone not like this stuff? I’m intrigued by 1783…but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it on the shelf out my way in southern CA. I wonder if there are regional restrictions on its distribution.

  31. Bourbon Bandit

    April 21, 2014 at 9:17 PM

    This stuff is great. I prefer mine mixed (2 to 1) with Whole Foods Italian Sparkling Mineral Water.

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