I like to travel. A lot. It's pretty much my second favorite hobby. I like it so much that I'd write a travel blog if it wasn't cheaper to go buy a bottle of bourbon than catch a flight to Louisville. And if so much of my travel didn't involve bourbon in some way shape or form. Last September I was in Kentucky. I believe I've mentioned this. One of the little highlights of my trip was stopping into the liquor stores to scope out all the tasty things I couldn't get (or didn't think I could get) at home. One of these was Evan Williams 1783. Since September, I've had it neat a half dozen times or so, used it in a few cocktails and even for cooking on occasion. All in all each experience was enjoyable.
Of course, sometimes you buy something just because you want to compare it to something else. This was the situation I found myself in as I bought a tiny little mini of Evan Williams black label. It was something I'd had and liked before, but with so many other tasty things to try, it had taken a while for me to go pick it up again. Black label was one of the first non-premium bourbons I'd had after I decided I liked bourbon. I'd read that it was a pretty good value bourbon and decided on a whim to pick it up. Good whim. I immediately realized that as far as bourbon was concerned, you didn't need to spend $30-40 to get something really tasty.
So, having the 1783 in hand and having picked up the mini of the black label, I decided tonight to go head to head. Just to see if different was necessarily better.
Here comes disclaimer-time: I did this in my normal double blind tasting routine where I draw a circle with an A in it, one with a B in it, one with a 1 and then one with a 2. I pour into the glasses labeled A and B and my wife moved them to either 1 or 2. So I know what A and B are, and she knows what 1 and 2 are, but neither of us know what bourbon is 1 and which is 2.
Nose: This is a sticky sweet caramel roll in a glass.
Mouth: Very sweet on entry. It gets hotter as it moves back in the mouth. Other than that there isn't much else going on here.
Finish: There's a little heat, but it fades pretty quickly.
Thoughts: This is a very pleasant, uncomplicated bourbon. It isn't going to make you sit and think, but that makes it perfect for playing cards. Something to sip on while your attention is somewhere else.
Nose: right away, I'm reminded of sour milk. not something I want to nose at all. After letting it sit for a 5-10 minutes the sour milk fades and is replaced by a sweet caramel much like bourbon 1.
Mouth: The sweetness is repeated here. It's soft and full in the mouth.
Finish: Short with almost no heat, but there is a lingering sweetness that I like.
Thoughts: This is so uncomplicated to be almost boring. But sometimes that's a good thing. I'd like this as I watch tv at the end of a rough day. It lends itself well to just vegging out watching an implausible prime-time action drama.
Verdict: I shouldn't have been, but I was pretty shocked to find out how similar these two were. The little bit of heat in bourbon 1 was not as pleasant as the softness of bourbon 2. Sweet, sweet, sweet as most inexpensive bourbons are, but pleasant none-the-less. I like these for drinking, not tasting and wouldn't hesitate if offered either during a hand of cards.
So which was which? Well, bourbon 1 was the Evan Williams 1783 and bourbon 2 was the Evan Williams Black Label. I found it a bit shocking that I found the "normal" one more to my liking, but that's why I taste blind: I don't want any preconceptions. And of course, if you haven't had them, try them out, you'll be out maybe $30 for the pair.