Review: Evan Williams Red Label 12 Years Old

Review: Evan Williams Red Label 12 Years Old

Fans of Evan Williams bourbon have lived many years now without much in the way of age statements. In the early 2000s, long before folks were lamenting the loss of age-stated bourbon, Heaven Hill dropped age statements from the line almost completely. Today, you have to look overseas (mostly in Japan) or to the Evan Williams Experience in downtown Louisville to nab an age-stated bottle. On a recent trip to Kentucky, I decided to pick up the 12-year-old Red Label. At well north of $100, it’s far more expensive than the remaining Heaven Hill tweens, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof and Henry McKenna Bottled-in-Bond. Let’s see what the fuss is about.

The nose is full of brown sugar and maple syrup. There’s a bit of heat here, too, and a subtle nuttiness that gives the whole thing a nice praline quality.  As it opens in the glass, the nutty notes skew slightly more toward honey roasted peanuts, and a bit of orange rock candy arrives. On the palate, it’s not nearly as sweet as I had expected. Syrupy, dark caramel and butterscotch pudding coats the tongue, but some drier oak and salted pecans add welcome counterpoints. On the mid-palate, orange peel and milk chocolate add to the complexity. A perfectly balanced heat carries into the generous finish, which is sweet and long with a bit of candied orange slice and dried tobacco. Outside of some of the earlier Single Barrel offerings, this is easily the best Evan Williams available. And at this price, it should be.

101 proof.


Evan Williams Red Label 12 Years Old




Drew Beard is assistant editor for Drinkhacker and winner of several booze-related merit badges, including Certified Specialist in Spirits and Executive Bourbon Steward. A former federal employee turned hotelier and spirits journalist, he looks forward to his next midlife crisis.

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