I was not planning to review another bourbon this week but news came in earlier on Monday of the passing of Parker Beam. Parker Beam was Heaven Hill’s master distiller from 1975 till his retirement a few years ago after he was diagnosed with ALS. It seemed like an appropriate time to raise a glass of one of the bourbons he made, and I had this bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel at hand. I did not ever meet Parker Beam and nor am I going to pretend to know very much about him—I’m not a bourbon maven by any means. But even I know enough to know that he was a true giant of the whiskey world, a true master distiller, one of those who shaped modern bourbon. And though I don’t know if it’s true, I’d like to believe that the fact that so many of Heaven Hill’s lineup of very drinkable bourbons are also very, very affordable bourbons has something to do with him. Even now, with everything that’s going on with Elijah Craig, Heaven Hill makes excellent whiskey for everyone—and there are very few distilleries around the world that can say that. Certainly the Evan Williams Single Barrel series has been synonymous with high quality for a very long time and it’s very easily found in the neighbourhood of $20. It may not be the greatest bourbon available from Heaven Hill but it’s an appropriate bourbon to toast him with: here’s to you, Mr. Beam!
This is from barrel 385, which was filled in September 2007 and bottled in February 2016. So, just over eight years old.
Evan Williams Single Barrel (43.3%; Barrel #; from my own bottle)
Nose: Very close to yesterday’s Henry McKenna to start, with caramel, corn and just a bit of rye spice. Some sweet oak too and a hint of sawdust. As it sits there’s vanilla-cream and some pastry crust. Water makes it dustier.
Palate: Starts out with sourer oak; the corn comes in below that; the rye’s not very evident here. The mouthfeel is quite nice despite the low strength. With time the texture begins to thin a little. With water it’s thinner still and the oak becomes a little too sharp.
Finish: Medium. Spicy and mildly oaky. The vanilla pops up again here with time. As on the palate with water.
Comments: This is essentially the Evan Williams Black Label with a little more depth on the nose and palate. There’s not a whole lot of development, and not as much going on as in the Henry McKenna, Bottled in Bond, but it’s the very definition of a solid bourbon—no flaws whatsoever (but hold the water).
Rating: 84 points.