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Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel 2003 Vintage

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage bourbons have a subtlety and balance that resonate with me. It seems that with each year, Heaven Hill manages to release an EWSB whiskey with flavors that are well integrated and harmonious. Nothing stands too far out in front. The last four vintages have been excellent, but will the 2003 measure up?

Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon, Vintage 2003, 43.3% abv (86.6Proof), $29/bottle
Barrel 78, aged 9 years 8 months
Color: Deep golden
Nose: Caramel apple, honey, vanilla taffy, with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Palate: As with the 2000 and 2002 especially, this 2003 is a well balanced blend of sweetness, fruit, and oak. Honey and vanilla up front, burnt sugar, dried apricot, golden raisin, and a solid backbone of oak and wood spices (cinnamon, nutmeg).
Finish: Candy corn sweetness, oak, crushed rock, and warm wood spices.
Overall: Heaven Hill is in a groove with the distillery’s Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage dated bourbons. The 2003 is just a shade less exciting than the previous three years, but sill marked with the usual grace and easy drinking personality. This is whiskey you can buy at a great price and knock them back without sacrificing quality. I will say that Heaven Hill would have a stunner with a bit more stickiness and mouth feel at a higher proof. The distillery is releasing a barrel strength Elijah Craig 12 Year at around $40-45, so I hope they add a similar version of EWSB soon as well.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.9 (Outstanding)

117 Comments

  1. sam k says:

    If you’ve never seen Chris McMillian making a julep, you’ve never seen a julep being made! Poetry and whiskey become one.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJV-O1e10z8

  2. Nick says:

    The confession I have to make is that I don’t make the mint julips for the Derby day party. My cousin does – and he is a master. The recipe comes from and old Louisville “Kentucky Derby Cookbook” from the 40′s. We used Lexington bourbon (ok stuff), makers mark, and Weller 12 yr. the bourbon tasting at my party had 20 different bourbons. Highlights were: Willett 11 year (I don’t know where it was sourced Matt ;) I couldn’t help it buddy), Parker’s Heritage Cognac aged, Old Rip Van Winkle, and Woodford reserve 4 wood (which we all agreed was pretty good stuff. I don’t disagree w/ Jason too often, but this is one). One of the surprise finalist for best of the batch was the Buliett 10 yr, of which I am an unabashed fan of. I didn’t expect others to share my enthusiasm for that one, but it held up well against the others. We put it up against 4 roses single barrel and small batch. If they aren’t made in the same place you wouldn’t know by the taste.

  3. Matt L. says:

    Oh my goodness. Thank you for sharing that. That was unbelievable. Just added something else to my to-do list for my life- get a drink at wherever Chris McMillian is bar tending. (Presently it looks like he’s at Kingfish.)

  4. Matt L. says:

    Haha! Thanks Nick! But, which Old Rip? 90 or 107? Huh? Hehehe. Couldn’t resist. Next time send me an invite!

  5. Nick says:

    You’re in Matt! It was the 107. Good stuff! I thought the 12 year Weller was every bit as good though.

  6. Jeff W. says:

    Nick, blend the two together at 50/50 for the best of both worlds, barrel age and proof strength (a.k.a. FLAVOR!)

  7. Nick says:

    Ha! On a serious note, has anyone ever mixed bourbons with a good result? I’ve always considered this criminal of course, but it has peaked my interest.

  8. Jim says:

    Experimenting to make “Your Bourbon” is Fun & Tasty !

    Example…….

    50/50 mixture Benchmark and Heaven Hill White Label BIB 6 Year 100 Proof.

    GREAT Combination !

  9. SCmayor says:

    Havent tried it yet but saw a recipe for an interesting drink…

    Equal parts Old Overholt, Jack and Johnnie Black ober ice anyone try this?

  10. Bmac says:

    I have made many bourbon mixtures. If the scotch world can be successful with mixing single malts, why not bourbon? Recently I mixed various wheated bourbons together with sweet vermouth and bitters to make a Mahattan amagamation. It was awesome after I left it over night in the freezer. I am all for mixing bourbons!

  11. Nick says:

    Very interesting indeed! Any more successful mixes out there?

  12. Bmac says:

    Nick, there is the famous StraightBourbon blend: 50/50 NAS Old Weller Antique and Weller 12 yr. :)

  13. Brian says:

    Gee – had to plow through all these comments – some of them were actually even about Evan Williams SB!! I saw the 2003 written up in Whiskey Advocate favorably – came here to find out some more – Jason you never disappoint! Unfortunately – not available here in PA, so I will hafta seek it out on my next visit to my brother’s in DE.

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  15. Josh says:

    Speaking of blending Bourbons (or “vatting”, as the cool kids refer to it), try a 50/50 blend of 2003 EWSB and EW White Label. The added alcohol from the White Label (100 proof) nicely elevates the flavors of the SB and the refinement of the SB still comes through. Anybody else notice the price of EWSB 2003 creeping up lately? I was down in MD over Thanksgiving and it was running about $26 on average and now, less than a month later, the same stores have it at $30-$32. Not a huge dollar increase but a pretty significant % increase in price there. Maybe because the stock is running low as they get ready to move into the 2004?

  16. Josh says:

    Check that: two places in the greater Baltimore area that aren’t know for high prices are asking $36 for 2003 EWSB now. Yowza.

  17. JB says:

    The 2003 is still relatively easy to find in the greater NYC region for $27-$30. Looks like the 2004 is just starting to hit the shelves for a couple of bucks more.

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