Cigar Aficionado

Straight from the Barrel: Evan Williams Twelfth

Twelfth Anniversary of Vintage-Dated Evan Williams Single Barrel

An anniversary we look forward to every year at Cigar Aficionado is the annual release of Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage. The 12th anniversary comes this year with another exceptional Bourbon chosen by the father-son distilling team of Parker and Craig Beam.

As well as being a single-barrel whiskey, this product is notable in that, as a vintage expression, it changes every year. This year's selection was put into the cask in early 1997 and dumped in autumn of 2006, making it technically nine years old, but it has enjoyed 10 summers of maturation. (The hot summers of Kentucky contribute much to the aging of Bourbon as the whiskey expands into the barrel staves where it gains most of its flavor.)

Parker Beam, the sixth-generation master distiller at Heaven Hill, has said that the Vintage collection provides special interest because it creates a snapshot of the time that the Bourbon has spent in the barrel, reflecting the unique climatic changes in its lifetime, even as it is made with the same mash bill as other Evan Williams whiskey. Each bottle of the 86.6 proof (43.3 percent alcohol) spirit is marked with the date it was barreled and the date it was bottled.

This year's Single Barrel shows floral notes on the nose, but turns spicier on the palate with a large licorice quotient, some hints of its grains and a hard-candy core. The spices overcome the sweetness on the finish and lie there mellowing for at least another minute of ecstasy after you've swallowed.

The Vintage, which goes on the market in January, is also an exceptional value at $24.99.