- 90 Proof
Whenever I go to Kentucky, I always feel like I have to come back with something special, something that I can't get in Illinois. Of course, it's always easy to go the route of a local store pick, but it's the stuff that's only available at the distillery gift shops that I really want to try to bring home. Luckily for me, during my last trip to Louisville I had a brief moment to swing through the Evan Williams Experience, and I was able to snag a couple bottles of this Master Blend (I passed on the over-priced Evan Williams 12-year).
This is a blend of five different Evan Williams products, including their Signature Black, the Bottled-in-Bond, 1783 and Evan Williams Single Barrel, as well as some of the 23-year-old! Of course, how much of the 23-year-old is in this blend is not disclosed, but I think it's a fair assumption that it represents a very small percentage of the blend. Nonetheless, this came highly recommended to me, and I was eager to give it a try.
The nose came across as sweet but earthy. My first note was sweet tea. It had that honey sweetness to it, but also a light bitter and dry note from the tea leaves. I also got some sweet oak as well. In that sense the nose was interesting in that it had a balance of bitter and sweet, though it did lean a bit more to the sweeter end, so perhaps "balance" wasn't the correct word.
Despite the lower proof, there was a certain unexpected richness to this whiskey. It still had that sweet wood note I got off the nose, but it was more of a mix of dark molasses and rich oak notes. The combination worked fairly well.
There was also a bright and bitter note, kind of like an orange peel note, that I really enjoyed. It seemed to cut through the rich notes while adding further depth of flavor. It also had the tea leaf note from the nose, but it didn't come across so much as a sweet tea. Rather, the unsweetened tea note seemed to stand on its own.
On the finish I got a nice cinnamon spice that seemed to almost appear out of nowhere. That was a pleasant surprise. That and the orange peel note seemed to stick around the longest, while the oak and molasses notes seemed to fade away a bit. The finish wasn't very long and it didn't exactly coat my mouth, but that's to be expected given the proof.
If you're in Kentucky and are looking to bring something back that you can't get in your home state, this is a good grab. At $60, it's far more accessible than many other gift shop exclusives (though, for Evan Williams products, a bit on the higher end), and it was quite tasty.