The Spirit: Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch
The Distillery: Heaven Hill
Style: Kentucky bourbon
Proof: 90 proof / 45% ABV
Availability: Wide Release
Why write about Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch? It’s not a new release, although the bottle and label just underwent a redesign that arguably has a more modern feel than the original packaging. According to distillery reps, this new “proprietary” glass bottle is supposed to evoke a premium feel, with the Evan Williams name etched across the top near the neck, a gold foil “1783,” and what it calls an upgraded capsule. So why all this attention paid to what is an often ignored member of the Evan Williams family, compared to the original Black Label, Bottled in Bond, and the usually excellent Single Barrel expressions? The answer is probably right there in the question: to make 1783 a better known member of this inexpensive but high-quality bourbon brand.
With the caveat that there is much to be dubious about in bourbon marketing, especially when named after figures in whiskey history, 1783 is named after the year that the real-life Mr. Williams is said to have opened his first distillery on the banks of the Ohio River, a licensed endeavor during a time of moonshine abundance. Evan Williams is Heaven Hill’s workhorse bourbon, much like Jim Beam White Label or Wild Turkey 101 are for their respective distilleries. While the term “small bach” has no legal meaning in the whiskey world and is often just used as a marketing device, Heaven Hill says that 1783 is made from batches of around 200-300 barrels, presumably less than what goes into a batch of Black Label. It’s made from the same mash bill as the others – 78 percent corn, 12 percent malted barley, and 10 percent rye – but is “extra-aged,” meaning… Well, it’s a NAS (no age statement) bourbon, so my guess is that it’s a bit older than Black Label.
1783 falls in between Black Label and BIB in terms of ABV at 90 proof, with just enough heat and flavor to sip on its own or use in different cocktails. And regarding that flavor, look for prominent grain notes on the nose and palate, along with candy apple, caramel, vanilla, and some honey that trails out on a relatively brief finish. This is not the most deep or complex whiskey out there; in fact, it reads a bit thin in your mouth, especially when compared to the excellent BIB expression. But in the world of budget whiskeys, 1783 is definitely worth grabbing a bottle to whip up a batch of Old Fashioneds or Manhattans, a role it will play very well.