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Bottom-Shelf Bourbon Brackets 2016, Round 1: Evan Williams 1783 vs. Wild Turkey

Posted on by Eric Burke

Round 1c of the 2016 Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets features Number 2 seed Evan Williams 1783 versus Number 3 seed Wild Turkey. 

Evan Williams 1783 is a product of Heaven Hill Brands. Heaven Hill tells us that it is a small batch version of Evan Williams made from only 80 barrels in a batch and that it is “extra aged.” Of course there is no hint as to what that actually means, but we can assume they are claiming a woodier profile with a few more of the complexities of flavor that get smoothed out by blending a larger batch of barrels together into Evan Williams Black. It is bottled at 86 proof. 

Wild Turkey until recently was known as Wild Turkey 81 proof. It might be a fairly smart rebrand since it before the rebrand they were essentially saying “Wild Turkey Weaker Edition.” Not a sentiment that most companies would like for their products. Of course it also positions Wild Turkey 101 as the line extension…meaning it may not be the main priority moving forward? Speculation on my part, of course. I’d never had Wild Turkey 81 and I tend to be a Wild Turkey fanboy so I’m thankful for the “Total Wine Effect” for bringing this into the price range.

These were tasted blind in the following order. My thoughts on each are from before the reveal.

Evan Williams 1873 

Purchase Info: $19.99 for a 1 L bottle at MGM Wine and Spirits, Burnsville, MN

Details: 43% ABV, No age statement

Produced by: Heaven Hill Brands

Nose: Alcohol hits you initially. After it dissipates I get grain, mint, vanilla, oak and a hint of ripe fruit.

Mouth: Hot, spicy and sweet on entry. Sweet grains, caramel and cloves.

Finish: Gentle burn that last a nice while. Lingering fruit, cloves and sweetness.

Thoughts: “Good solid bourbon that hits all the “bourbon” notes I want it to.”

Wild Turkey

Purchase Info: $12.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN*

Details: 40.5% ABV, No Age Statement

Produced by: Wild Turkey

Nose: Dusty oak like the inside of a rick house. Cotton candy sweetness. A hint of fruit.

Mouth: Gentle and drying. Sweet apple, citrus, white sugar and a hint of mint.

Finish: Short, gentle finish. Lingering citrus, apple and baking spices.

Thoughts: “While there is nothing wrong with this, it’s just a bit too gentle for what I’m looking for in a bourbon.”

Who wins?

Like all of them so far, this is a close one. The Evan Williams 1783 gives you a better overall experience. The flavors of the Wild Turkey would be better if there was a little more heat. Honestly I’m shocked. I wouldn’t have expected anything with the Wild Turkey name on it to be so gentle. That said, I’m kinda glad I now know I can pick up a bottle of the Evan Williams 1783 for less than $20. Thanks again Total Wine Effect!


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