It’s always an unfortunate feeling when you spend more and get less. You’d think this bottle’s price would be some indicator of “stepping up,” but after going through a whole bottle I just don’t see why it exists.
As a case in point, Evan Williams “black label” is a value leader to beat the band at a whopping $11 around here. Those who are looking for a substantial step up will most probably enjoy the white label, a bonded bourbon (meaning that it’s aged at least 4 years and is bottled at 50% ABV). I quite like it, and even though 50% alcohol is sometimes a little much when you just want to check out at the end of a taxing weekday, throw some ice in there or add a splash of water to it, and you’ve got a tastier beverage than the black for only about four dollars more.
So the 1783? It’s a 43% ABV bourbon, which you’d assume would split the difference between the two bottles. Only thing is that the retail’s anywhere from $14 to $20 bucks, meaning that it’s either marked about the same as the white label, or it’s significantly more. The name has aspirations of a “premium” bourbon, calling attention to the long-ago Evan Williams being founded. The same year, incidentally, that the Revolutionary War ended, and when the Three-Fifths Compromise became a thing. A mixed bag in American History!
If we’re expecting the 1873 to represent the heritage of Evan Williams as a whole or some kind of rah-rah American pride stuff, we’re in for a letdown. It isn’t as mellow as the Black Label, and it isn’t as distinctive and sweet-corny as the white label. Essentially, the bottle is bourbon by the numbers, which is to say bland, bland, bland, and has some clear off-notes that I don’t get from the white label.
The good: mixed in with the bourbon hallmarks of corn, oak, and vanilla are some herbal notes on the nose and some nice peanut flavors in the development. It ends peppery, like many bourbons tend to do. That’s the good.
The bad is that it smells pretty alcohol-heavy, and very funky. If you don’t like the corn funk that puts a lot of people off bourbon (myself included), skip this. But maybe skip it especially for a strange fruit sourness that makes for a bracing arrival, some chemical-type sweetness that makes itself known halfway into tasting, and another unpleasantly sour exit.
If I had to guess it, I just think this is in a bad spot where the stocks/aging is concerned. It’s young enough for a shitload of off-notes to go aggro on the tongue, and old enough for the sourness of the charred oak to become astringent and tannic. A hard pass.