Evan Williams Single Barrel 2004 (bottled 2014)
Back in the land of bourbon. I find that when anything is named after someone there is usually a great story behind it and this whiskey is no exception. Evan Williams seems to have been a man of many talents being hailed variously as entrepreneur, politician and (most notably for our purposes) distiller. When I write entrepreneur, I mean it in a very literal sense: wherever this man saw an opportunity he took it. At various points he worked as a farmer, building contractor, inventor and even as a harbour master! As a politician his passion for whiskey shone, but not in the way you might expect. The taking of whiskey during meetings was forbidden but Williams took no head of this and frequently attended with a jug of his finest.
Our interest in Evan Williams, the man, begins in 1783 in Louisville Kentucky when he set up his distillery. There remains a stone marker on that site to this day declaring it the first commercial distillery in Kentucky! Quite the accolade indeed! This expression has won Whiskey of the Year five times and is notably vintaged as opposed to traditionally age statemented. As I said before, when covering the Glenrothes 2001, I like this quirk of labelling. It is obviously not difficult to do the maths to work out what age would go on the bottle but the specificity of when the new-make spirit was laid down in oak is a nice touch. Especially with something like a single barrel - for those nerdy enough (such as myself) you can think about what you were doing around the time your dram was being laid down.
I do feel that I am getting to grips with bourbon to a greater extent now. With that in mind, my notes:
Appearance: Polished Mahogany
Nose: An oaky chocolate gives way to the most wonderful vanilla which reminded me of a freshly scraped pod.
Palate: The vanilla sweetness follows through from the nose with a peppery spice on the back of the palate. A slightly burned caramel comes through as a result of the barrel char.
Finish: Medium in length. The spice is dominant with the oaky tannins producing a satisfying dry effect.
If this is the type of whiskey that Evan Williams was taking to meetings, I have no trouble believing the rumours that he was not the only one drinking it. I enjoyed it neat but also think it would go beautifully in a Manhattan. The sheer intensity of the vanilla is something to behold!