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. Cheerwino says:

    Thanks for the great write up, Jason. I really appreciate the work you do. You (and the other commenters) really helped me understand the kinds of bourbons I like and make better buying decisions. EWSB is one of my favorites (along with Elmer)!

    I’m gonna be arranging a little bourbon talk and tasting for friends and I’ve been round and round over what handful of bourbons to offer for a mixed group of beginners and fans ($30-$40 ea., not too obscure but not obvious fare). Any suggestions? I’m thinking of at least three pours from the three main grain profiles and try to stick to around 90 proof for consistency. My working list now is Elmer T. Lee (or EWSB), Four Roses SB and some wheater to be named later. Ideas/thoughts from Jason or other folks?

  2. Phil says:

    I firmly agree, Jason. I would love to see EWSB at barrel strength. I haven’t seen the 2003 vintage in Boston yet, but I would have loved to have the 2001 and 2002 vintages uncut.

  3. Dave says:

    Wow…8.9? I thought it was on par with it’s predecessors… BUT… My taste is not nearly as refined. I happen to have a bottle of the 02 and 03, so time for a side-by-side comparison I think. I will go back and read your reviews of them afterward again and see what happens. we are REALLY hoping for that barrell proof EWSB as well! I can’t wait to try the Elijah Craig offering. As always, great post and thank you for your work.

    Cheerwino – That is a great line-up. Those three bourbons are exceptional and each offers a unique approach.

  4. Wade Woodard says:

    Would you mind telling us if HH sent you this review bottle or was it something you purchased from local retailer? Also what was the barrel number?

  5. The Bourbon Guys says:

    Once again another great review Jason! Though we liked the 2002 slightly better, the 2003 in still excellent, especially for the price. Keep up the great work!

  6. Wade this is a bottle I purchased at the Bottle Shop in Franklin, TN. Barrel # is 78. Cheers.

  7. Jon says:

    Very interesting characterization that had my mouth watering. I almost felt like i was taking a sip..almost :). Definitely will give this one a try. Thanks for the thoughtful write up.

  8. Mike says:

    I live in Panama City, FL, and ran into a bottle of EWSB 1998 at an obscure little liquor store a couple of weeks ago. I enjoyed it over the weekend. I’ve seen the 2003 in a couple of locations where it usually retails for about $27. Prices are a bit high in the panhandle.

  9. Jim says:

    Jason-

    Personally enjoy 2002 and looking forward to 2003.

    Do you know percentage rye Heaven Hill uses with their Evan Williams Bourbons ?

  10. Terry L. says:

    Cask strength EW Vintage would certainly be a welcome addition. Although, just my personal take – I thought 2002 was the weakest of the last four releases. I enjoy the new one a bit more, though not quite to the level of the 2000.

  11. Jeff W. says:

    Jim, HH uses a low rye mash bill, I’ve seen it listed as:
    78% corn, 10% rye, 12% barley

  12. Jim says:

    Jeff W-

    Thank You for Heaven Hill / Evan Williams mash bill.

    Rye content lower than I guessed while percentage malted barley is higher !

  13. JT says:

    Jason,

    Long time reader, 1st time poster. I’ll be heading through KY this week on my way to Cincinnati and will visit Heaven Hill, 4 Roses, and Buffalo Trace distilleries. Plan on picking up 8-10 bottles on the trip and had to stop by to re-read some reviews to help me with my selections. So many good bourbons, so little time… Will definitely pick up the new EWSB and hope I can find a bottle of Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch if I’m lucky. Cheers.

  14. Jim says:

    JT-

    You will find all bourbons you desire at TPS……

    The Party Source known for huge selection and low prices.

    Cross Ohio River from Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky via I-471 Bridge. 1st Exit Rt 8 North @ one block to TPS (Bellevue / Newport Kentucky).

    Stop at Pompilio’s Italian Restaurant before or after shopping at TPS.

    Pompilio’s famous for excellent food and film site for “Toothpick Scene” movie “Rain Man”.

  15. Dean E says:

    Tried the ’03 at a bourbon-paired dinner 2 weekends ago. I thought initially it had a green wood nose (probably the rye mingling with the oak), but that faded after 10 minutes. Overall. I liked it better than the ’02

  16. Jim Listerman says:

    Read & Enjoy…….

    Great Website To Research Bourbon & Bourbon Prices

    http://www.thepartysource.com/whiskey/whiskey_bourbon.php

    Prices Quoted Are Plus State & Local Taxes

  17. Vince says:

    Excellent review Jason and a great descriptive profile of the EWSB range. I personally think the 2002 and 2003 are very comparable in terms of quality. To me, the 2000 stands above all others over the last 4 years! Keep up the great work!
    Hope to see you at WhiskyFest Chicago!!

  18. Dave says:

    Can’t wait to try the 2003!! Yes, I’m one of “those” horders and have 5 bottles of 2002 tucked away. Can you tell I liked the 2002…very nice, very nice indeed….especially with a good Cuban cigar!!

    Dave in Oklahoma
    Go Sooners!!

  19. Dave says:

    ***Sorry for the misspelled word..”horders”…my typing is a little faster than my brain processing…doh!!!

    I mean hoarders. I am remiss!!

    Dave in Oklahoma
    Go Sooners!!
    Houston Texans!!

  20. Nick says:

    I’m doing a tasting soon where I will have the 2000-2003 on the table. I found them all in one shop for under $25.00 a bottle! Looking forward to the side by side comparisons of those four years. I love these guys too Jason. Thanks for the review.

  21. Yeah, I’m gonna have to get on this. I had the 2002, and thought it was fantastic. Thanks for yet another great review, Jason!

  22. Rock says:

    Barrel #85 sure is good to me. I have enjoyed the last two batches and 2003 did not disappoint. This and Elijah Craig 12 have become two of my “go to” bourbons.

  23. Texas says:

    While EWSB isn’t bad by any means, it sure does seem watery and too subtle to me. Now I like some Single Malt Scotches that are subtle, but I don’t want my bourbon to be subtle. I bet bottling this at even 95 proof would improve it a whole lot.

    Normally I agree with you Jason, but just can’t jump on the EWSB bandwagon. A little OT, but now since Sku manged to find the worst bottle of OGD 114 ever (or maybe it is his dislike of Beam) maybe you could review OGD 114 for us.

  24. smknjoe says:

    I like EWSB for the price.

    What happened to the whiskey list on the right of the page Jason?

  25. Andrew says:

    It is a pull-down menu now under “Topics.” I like the change, it cleans up the page a bit now that he has reviewed so many.

  26. Jim says:

    Fancy New System For Bourbonites !

    Me Likey

  27. Jim Listerman says:

    Purchasing Expedition @ The Party Source…….

    Evan Williams 1783 and Evan Williams 2003 Single Barrel

    Same / Similar

    2003……

    More Complex !

    1783 “Great Everyday Bourbon” (@$10.99 750ML)

  28. Charlie says:

    Jason…This stuff isn’t bad but I do wish you’d review Weller Special Reserve. I’ve done many blind taste tests (with friends and neighbors) with WSR and many $25-$50 bourbons (including EWSB) and the the conscientious is always the Weller, at a much cheaper price point.

    I do think you’d do your readers a great service with a review.

    Thx….Charlie

  29. Texas says:

    Charlie a thumbs up on WSR..good stuff.

  30. Jim says:

    W.L. Weller Special Reserve Trivia…..

    Distilled @ Buffalo Trace Distillery (Frankfort).

    Special Reserve “juice” transported via 8,000 gallon stainless steel tankers to Barton 1792 Distillery (Bardstown) to be barreled, aged, and bottled.

    Sazerac very efficient making Great Bourbon !

  31. Ed Gardner says:

    Hey Jason. I’m a big fan of your blog and use your reviews fairly often for guidance in determining the whiskeys that are really worth dropping more than $100 a fifth. Have you had a chance to sample Benjamin Pritchard’s double barreled? I’d love to see a review on it from a whiskey blogger I feel I can trust cause I’ve seen mixed reviews.

  32. Rock says:

    I’d like you to review Evan Williams 1783 sometime. It’s not complex but it is a great value, IMO.

  33. Dave says:

    My buddy and I are planning our next Bourbon Trail trip over a bottle of the NEW Elijah Craig Barrel Proof right now! WOW! What an Oak Punch! I will reserve further comments until Jason posts. We are looking forward to our visit in two weeks!

  34. Jim says:

    Sour Mash Manifesto Followers-

    Let’s take up collection so Jason can afford to purchase wide variety Bourbon’s for upcoming reviews.

    Personally having Withdrawal Pains waiting for next review !

  35. Jim says:

    Dave-

    Which distillery are you visiting ?

    My son and I are currently planning visit to Bardstown Area to tour Maker’s Mark, and Heaven Hill.

  36. Dave says:

    Jim-
    We are starting on the east side on Day 1 and visiting Town Branch, Wild Turkey and Four Roses (I went to Buffalo Trace and Woodford last fall). We are also going to the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg for a tasting with Dixon that evening. http://www.beaumontinn.com/

    Day 2 we are going to Makers Mark, Willett and Heaven Hill. We will visit a restaurant in Bardstown that night called Kreso’s. They have an amazing bourbon selection.

    Then on DAY 3 we will hit Jim Beam on our way out of town. This is the 2nd year my buddy and I have done this. It’s a blast, and we camp while doing it. One, because we love to camp. And Two, because we use the money we save to purchase more bourbon. :) If anyone has any questions about doing a trip, I would love to help… if I can. :)
    dsykes@agapecc.com

  37. Dave says:

    Jim –

    My friend and I are visiting several distilleries while we are down there. This will be the second time we’ve done this.

    On our first day we are going to Town Branch, Wild Turkey and Four Roses over on the east side of the Bourbon Trail. I highly recommend Buffalo Trace also, but I was just there in the fall, so we aren’t going there this time.

    That night we are camping in Harrodsburg and visiting the Beaumont Inn where one of the caretakers does tastings.
    http://www.beaumontinn.com

    On day two we are heading towards Bardstown. On the way we will swing by Makers Mark. Then head on to Willett and Heaven Hill. There is a restaurant in Bardstown called Kreso’s that has a great bourbon selection that we will probably go to that night.

    We will camp in Bardstown that night. My friend and I like to camp, but it also saves money to… you guessed it… buy more bourbon. :)

    On our last day, we will swing by Jim Beam on our way home.

    This is a super fun thing to do for bourbon enthusiasts and I highly recommend it.

    Dave in Michigan

  38. Dave says:

    Sorry for the repeat. I thought I lost the first one.

  39. Jim says:

    Jason-

    Rainy Night In Tennessee, Kentucky, and Ohio.

    Good Night For New Review !*!*!

  40. Slimpee says:

    I’m trying to figure out which bourbon I like best. The EWSB is definitely one of my favorites. Last week, I had a bottle of Jim Beam Devil’s Cut, which I also liked. I would put the EWSB and Devil’s Cut ahead of the Woodford Reserve and Gentleman Jack I had the prior weeks. I have been hankering for another bottle of Jack Single Barrel but the store from which I bought it ran out of their barrel’s bottles.

    Thoughts of EWSB v. Devil’s Cut?

  41. Bmac says:

    First time that I ever heard anyone who liked Devil’s Cut. I would like it better if they chose to add the wood juice to their black label bourbon versus the white.

    With that said it would be interesting to get Jason’s review of Devil’s Cut.

  42. Ricardo says:

    I’ve never tried Devil’s Cut, but Jason gave it a respectable 8.5, so it must be OK.

  43. David says:

    Jason,

    Hope all is well. Just need to tell you that I miss your reviews! Lots of great new stuff out there (and maybe some that’s not so great) and really miss the frequent reviews. Hope you’re back at it shortly.

    David

  44. CR says:

    As I quote Rodney Dangerfield……

    “Lets go while we are young”

  45. Jim says:

    Sour Mash Manifesto Readers-

    My son and I spent last Thursday touring Heaven Hill and Maker’s Mark.

    Heaven Hill has nice museum and tasting room. Tour(s) available lack seeing distillery since it is in Louisville. Heaven Hill grounds are spartan compared to Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, and Buffalo Trace.

    Tasting Room @ Heaven Hill very modern.

    Maker’s Mark Distillery is roughly 20 miles south of Bardstown. Drive through Loretto to arrive at distillery.

    Maker’s Mark Distillery sits in large beautiful country valley surrounded by farm meadows and forests.

    Great Tour !

    Maker’s Mark employees are very personable and make you feel right at home.

    Walk the scenic grounds. View distillation, fermentation, and bottling.

    Bottling runs Monday-Friday only.

    Weekend tours miss seeing bottling line operating. Hot wax neck dip very unique manual labor sight to see.

    Tasting Room experience is unique with four tastings……

    1) White Dog (Available ONLY @ Gift Shop)
    2) Maker’s Mark (Mature Bourbon)
    3) Maker’s Mark (Over Aged)
    Over Aged Shows More Barrel Time = Negative Effect on MM
    4) Maker’s Mark 46

    Spring Is Here And The Time Is Now……

    Experience The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

  46. Nick says:

    White Dog from BT is sold in many retail stores.

  47. Chris says:

    Next review or ‘rant’, please! ;)

  48. sam k says:

    I believe Jim is talking about Maker’s Mark white dog at their tasting room, not BT.

  49. Jim says:

    Correct……

    Maker’s Mark White Dog

    All distilleries produce “white dog”.

    White Dog = Industry term for clear whiskey straight off the still.

    Maker’s Mark bottles and retails their White Dog strictly via distillery Gift Shop as tie in with tourists having opportunity to sip it in Tasting Room.

    Tasting Room provides four samples to explain how their whiskey evolves from White Dog to finished “mature” Maker’s Mark.

  50. Nick says:

    Ah. Should have read closer. I’ve done the bourbon trail many times, but have not gone to town branch since they hopped on. How is that place? I think their bourbon is so-so at best.

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