Better Budget Bourbon


Two years ago I walked into a bar and declared, “I’m going to learn to understand whiskey better!” I should pause and mention that my experiences with whiskey at this point in my life were Jameson, whatever manner of Scotch got served at weddings, and random shots of rail selections at questionable bars. Since then I’ve become no expert, but I do have a better grasp on what I like within the incredibly popular Bourbon branch of the whiskey family tree. Top shelf, I’m into Blanton’s, and I like the 10 year Bulleit a lot. I also enjoy Bulleit’s standard offering (which what started me on quest for understanding), and Buffalo Trace is pretty good as far as upper mid-level selections. Wild turkey isn’t bad, but Jim Beam is a better replacement in what I consider standard class, and then there are some guilty pleasure bottom tier guys like Rebel Yell (it comes with a free paracord bracelet…prizes and trinkets!).

One brand that I have yet to mention is Evan Williams. I really like Evan Williams for a lower-middle of the road choice. It’s good over ice, it has big flavors that cut through if used in cocktails, and it carries a low price tag. Thing is, there’s a few different kinds of Evan Williams, and before this writing I had only sampled the black label variety. Now, mind you, I had witnessed the green bottle variety used at bars and stocked alongside a white label “bottled in bond” variety (which for the sake of this discussion will be overlooked), but always picked up the black label when making my own selections. Well not today, not today. Today I grabbed a green label bottle AND a black label bottle, so that I may compare and contrast in the name of nonessential whiskey blogging. So let’s get to it.


Right away you’ll note the ABV is different with black label coming in at 43%, and green at 40%. It’s also interesting to note that the wording on the labels is the same, with the lone exception being that the neck of the black variety says “Extra Aged”, while the green omits this designation. This type of vague description makes we wonder just how much “extra” actually is. Upon pouring some out side by side, it’s evident that the green variety is lighter in color, which would make sense since its aged less than the black. It also has less of the oaky smell that the black variety has, which again, makes sense (the black label variety also burns the nose a bit, while the green does not). Sipping black label you get corn and oak flavors, a little vanilla and caramel, with an itty-bitty rye aftertaste and not subtle, but not overwhelming bite, basically it’s a strong, no-frills bourbon. The green label on the other hand is like its little brother. Milder up front, almost sweet, with undercurrents of what it may have been if left in the barrel a while longer (its got a little oak flavor, not overpowering in any way), and minimal if any bite. Now, not being privy to the differences in mash bill between the two (if any), I’d be so bold as to say that the recipe is probably about the same, with the main difference being age. I’m aware that I could probably look up the mash bills, but aren’t some things better left to mystery?


So where then are we left? What to make of the green label? Well, you probably know someone somewhere who makes questionable whiskey decisions – like drinking all manner of weird “flavored” whiskey varieties (honey, cinnamon, mint? blah blah blah). Tell them to stop it, and jump on board the bourbon with training wheels, Evan Williams green label. It’s not bad, and it’s a great mild introductory point to the world of bourbons at a low price point (it’s a buck less than black label at my store, which is already a stellar deal). On top of all that, your questionable friend will no longer appear to have the drinking disposition of a college freshman. Me, I’ll be sticking with the black label.

I’ll be back on Wed. to spin a yarn about a biscuit familiar to millions.

Your host,

Charlie Mewshaw