Sunday, June 23, 2013

Blind Tasting - Jim Beam vs. Evan Williams

Yesterday, my wife and I conducted a blind tasting of the #1 and #2 selling bourbons in the world.  All of the reviews I have posted so far have focused on mid to top shelf pours.  The lack of attention to bottom shelf or house brands has been a glaring omission on my part as I now realize that it is important to establish a base for your palette.  I unfortunately did not do this when I began drinking bourbon, so shame on me.  My first bottle was Blanton's.

Jim Beam - the world's #1 selling bourbon - Produced in Clermont, Kentucky since 1795, when Jacob Beam sold his first barrels of corn whiskey.  The distillery was first known as Old Tub, and the whiskey was called Old Jake Beam.
Currently, the standard Beam white label is distilled from a mash bill of 75% corn, 15% rye, and 10% malted barley.  It is aged for 4 years and bottled at 80 proof.

Evan Williams - Standard black label is the world's #2 selling bourbon - Evan Williams began distilling whiskey near Louisville, Kentucky in 1783.  The brand is currently produced by Heaven Hill Distilleries.  Founded in 1935, Heaven Hill is the largest family owned distillery in Kentucky, and the largest independently operated producer of distilled spirits in the U.S.
All of the Master Distillers at Heaven Hill have been members of the Beam family, beginning with Joseph L. Beam, Jim Beam's first cousin.
Current black label Evan Williams is distilled from a low rye mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye and 12% malted barley, aged for 5-7 years and bottled at 86 proof.

First, setting up a blind tasting is simple.  Grab a glass for each whiskey you plan on comparing.  Label each glass and designate someone to decide which whiskey goes in each glass, keeping this a secret from the tasters of course.
Next grab a pen and paper, then start nosing and sipping.  Consider having a glass of water handy, and perhaps something without much flavor to snack on between sips such as saltine crackers, tortilla chips, or nuts.

Without getting too much into the details of the tasting notes, we both ended up preferring the Evan Williams over the Jim Beam by a narrow margin.
Surprisingly, we were actually able to determine during the tasting which whiskey was in each glass even though we had little experience with either, likely due to the Evan Williams having a slightly higher alcohol content.

The Beam was a bit flat and lacking flavor.  I could detect some of the butterscotch qualities I get from another Beam product, Old Grand Dad.

The Evan Williams was a bit dry, yet despite having a lower rye content tasted slightly spicier.  After sitting in the glass for several minutes, it exhibited a nice sweetness on the nose, and maple/caramel sweetness on the tongue.

The Jim Beam will cost around $13, and the Evan Williams about $10.

Both expressions are a great introduction to American Whiskey.


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  2. Loyal to the Beam....tried evan williams after reading this. Taste the cheapness is all i can say. Not awful, jus not as good. Spend the extra couple dollars for the quality. My opinion is all

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    1. You learned to spell where?

    2. They learned to spell from your mom so quit being a jackass...

    3. "...They learned to spell from your mom so quit being a jackass...". Not an intelligent mature reply.

      The reason folks cannot properly spell is because when spelling mistakes are made they are not corrected. Also, there is apathy towards proper spelling instilling that mediocrity is acceptable. Thus that person was correct and helpful bringing it to that person's attention.

  5. If you're in this market, Evan Williams cask strength costs just about as much as the base Jim Beam and hands down beats it. Elijah Craig, Bulleit, and Wild Turkey are solid upgrades from here as well.

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  7. Wow. I couldn't believe that somebody else had said that Jim Beam White tastes flat. That is exactly the way that I have described it to other people as well. Even Williams is more comparable to Jim Beam Black then White. That's just my opinion though and it's a lot cheaper too. Great review !!!

  8. I really enjoyed reading your article. I found this as an informative and interesting post, so i think it is very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the effort you have made in writing this article.

  9. Evan Williams is a fine bourbon. Cost aside during a blind taste test I put my money on that even the most avid Beam drinker will pick Evan Williams ...taste and proof prove this bourbon true