A Cross Atlantic Treat – Vintage Bourbon

Evan Williams Single Barrel

I tried something new last week: the American Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2001, imported for me by my very own dear Dad, who wanted me to try it. Each bottle is marked with the date it was placed in oak and bottled, in addition to the serial number of the single barrel from which it was drawn. According to various review sites, there is considerable variation across each vintage and even across individual barrels. While the 2000 vintage was considered practically ‘Scotch’-like by many, the 2001 is not.

The setting was a very cozy and lovingly restored Victorian era room in a B&B in Devonshire, England, looking out over a garden. We sampled the Evan Williams alongside a Glenfiddich Rich Oak scotch, and while they were very different, the bourbon held up well – and costs about half the price of the scotch (if you buy it in the U.S., anyway).

For me, at any rate, this was an excellent sipping bourbon, a wee bit sharper than the single malts I usually drink, but with just the kind of caramel and vanilla notes I prefer, along with oak and char. There’s a good description here at Sourmashmanifesto.com of the various flavors, and I very much agree with the review’s positive assessment. It’s not a product that’s very easy to get where I live in France, so I feel lucky to have gotten a taste. Thanks, Dad!

What’s the definition of a bourbon?

According to the Evan Williams website:

“By law, Bourbon must be made up of at least 51% corn and aged a minimum of two years in a new charred white oak barrel. Bourbon can be made anywhere in the United States, though almost all brands are made in Kentucky, and Kentucky is the only state allowed to put its name on the bottle. Bourbon is not Bourbon unless the label says so.

There was a time when a whiskey could only be called “Bourbon” if it was distilled in Bourbon County, KY. By an Act of Congress passed in 1964, any straight whiskey that is 51% corn, with other grains completing the mashbill, distilled at 160 or less proof (no matter where) and aged at least two years in new, charred white oak barrels can be legally called a straight Bourbon. Tennessee whiskey undergoes the “Lincoln County process”-the whiskey is filtered through a column of charcoal chips before being put into barrels, making it a bit different and not legally a Bourbon.”

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