Posts tagged ‘Heaven Hill’

Evan Williams Black Label Review

This is one of the cheapest bourbon whiskeys on the American market today, so it certainly deserves a review on a value bourbon blog.  Evan Williams is a line of products from the Heaven Hill Distillery, which also includes the oft-acclaimed Evan Williams Vintage Single Barrel collection.  The base line “black label” Evan Williams is a bourbon that tends to get people animated wherever their opinion falls concerning Evan Williams.  It seems that people either love or hate this particular bourbon.  Hopefully, I fall somewhere in between…

On the nose, the aroma most prevalent in Evan Williams is rich oak, but there is also raw corny sweetness.  The palate has good body to it, but it isn’t especially complex.  There is a lot of oak on the palate, only to be mutated by prickly spices in the finish.  There are a few whispers of vanilla throughout the Evan Williams experience, but they can be hard to find.

Overall, I am not a huge fan of Evan Williams Black Label.  That being said, for $11 a bottle, Evan Williams is a pretty good buy.  It is a very drinkable bourbon that I would not be offended if a friend of mine wanted to mix.  It is a solid addition to any liquor cabinet.  My grade: C-.  Price: $10-15/750ml.  This is a cabinet staple if you like making bourbon-based mixed drinks for parties.  It is also a fine pour, too.

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Comparison Review: Wild Turkey 101 vs. Fighting Cock 6 Year

I decided on these two bourbons for my first comparison review because they are very similar.  They are both under $30, over 100 proof, have a high percentage of rye in the mash bill, and they are both named after crazy poultry.  The biggest difference between the two is that almost everybody has heard of Wild Turkey, and almost nobody has heard of Fighting Cock.  However, both of them are very good value bourbons.

Wild Turkey 101 comes from the famous Austin Nichols Distillery, producers of the famous Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve bourbons.  There is no age statement on the bourbon, but my guess is that most of the bourbons that make it into the bottle are between 3 and 6 years old.  It has fancy advertising campaigns, and most college students have taken a shot of Turkey 101 at some point in their career.  However, what few college students realize is that they are drinking a damn good bourbon.

On the nose, Wild Turkey 101 is rich and complex.  There are strong notes of brown sugar and rye spices that balance each other well.  Some more fragile notes of dried summer fruits (peaches?), caramel, and pine sap come through as well.  Jason Pyle at Sour Mash Manifesto (http://sourmashmanifesto.com/2010/11/11/wild-comparison-wild-turkey-russells-reserve-vs-wild-turkey-101/) describes Wild Turkey’s mouth feel as “a porcupine running at 60 MPH,” but I think the palate is a bit softer than that.  There are certainly a lot of sharp spices from the rye, which give the bourbon a lot of peppery notes, but there is also good balance to the palate.  The brown sugars and caramels from the nose stick around through the whole experience, calming down the big rye kick on the palate and the finish.  Wild Turkey finishes with a sharp, spicy finish, with just enough caramel and barrel sugar to keep it smooth.  I only wish the finish would stay longer, it always seems too quick to me.  My grade: B+/B.  Price: $25-30.  This is a damn good sipper for a damn good price.

Fighting Cock 6 year is a 103 proof bourbon from Heaven Hill Distillery (Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, etc.).  It is not easy to find, especially in places that aren’t big bourbon hotspots, but it is worth a try if you find it.  At only about $20 for 750ml, it is a pretty good deal.  It is also available in a limited edition 15 year, which is very difficult to find.  If anyone finds that one, let me know (or just send me a bottle).

On the nose, the rye spices are very clear, with only some soft caramel and oak to balance out the bourbon.  On the palate, Fighting Cock is very full-bodied, with a distinct rye profile.  The bourbon is spicy and peppery on the palate, with some corny sweetness, nutmeg, and light caramel lingering around the front of the tongue.  The finish is monstrous.  Fighting Cock rumbles over the back of your tongue, kicking and screaming all the way.  The finish is dominated by the peppery flavors of the rye spices and drying oak, but there are slight sweet flavors (corn, caramel) that come back after a minute or two.  The finish is definitely longer than Wild Turkey, but Fighting Cock’s finish isn’t as complex, which can make it feel pretty harsh if you aren’t used to drinking high proof bourbons.  My grade: C-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a fine pour, but it is not complex enough to be the daily sipper.

Overall, Wild Turkey is the winner, hands down.  It is the more complex bourbon; it is rich, balanced, and very drinkable.  Fighting Cock is still very good value, but it isn’t as balanced as Wild Turkey 101, which can make it feel like a rough, one-tracked ride.  If Wild Turkey were at the same price point as Fighting Cock, then Wild Turkey might be my favorite value whiskey on the market, but its fame has made it a bit pricy.  In some places, you can still snag a bottle of 101 for $22.  If that is the case in your area, there is no reason not to have a bottle of Turkey 101 in the liquor cabinet when I come visit.

Elijah Craig 12 Year Review

Elijah Craig is a bourbon line from the famous Heaven Hill distillery.  It comes in two editions, a 12 year small batch edition and an 18 year single barrel edition.  As the 18 year is a little out of my price range, today I am reviewing Elijah Craig 12 year small batch bourbon.  It is named after Elijah Craig, the often alleged inventor of the bourbon, a fact which is disputed about as much as it is brought up.  The bourbon itself has two important distinctions in that it is the oldest (aged 12 years) whiskey that I have reviewed on this site so far, and it has the highest proof (94) of any whiskey I have reviewed so far.  Like several of the mid-range craft bourbons I have reviewed on this site, Elijah Craig draws some mixed reviews.  Some love it and some hate it.  I am probably somewhere in the middle.

I love the way Elijah Craig smells.  The nose is rich with oak, but is balanced by burnt sugar, some char from the barrel, vanilla, and roasted caramel.  The palate is also richly oaky, but there is also some burnt sugar, dried fruit, rye spice, vanilla, and caramel.  The finish is long and warming, but it is a little narrow.  The oak rumbles across the back of the tongue, leaving only a little room for some dried fruit and rye spice to come through.

Overall, I really like Elijah Craig.  I wish it had just a little more balance to it, but it still sits quite high among my favorite value bourbons.  The oak is a bit too dominant and single-minded for my tastes (I think Rowan’s Creek achieves it a bit better).  As always, try it for yourself and let it ride.

For other varied opinions on Elijah Craig 12 year, see these bourbon blogs.

Jason Pyle at Sour Mash Manifesto rates Elijah Craig several points higher than Buffalo Trace and Eagle Rare, both bourbons that I have already reviewed on the site.

http://sourmashmanifesto.com/category/reviewsratings/elijah-craig/

At Blue Kitchen, Elijah Craig is graded lower than Bulliet, another bourbon I have already reviewed.

http://www.bluekitchen.net/bourbongallery.html

My grade for Elijah Craig: B-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is a dense bourbon, but it is still a nice pour to keep around in the winter.  It is not my go-to bourbon, though.