I agree that EWSB is a superior bourbon to JBB (Although I think JBB is a fine bourbon). I will say that the 2002 release of EWSb did not measure up to the previous 2 releases however.
That being said my issue with your fine and entertaining post lies in the statement that both are around the same price. Either you are getting EWSB for a great price or you are getting JBB for a really bad price. In my neck of the woods I can get JBB for under $20 while EWSB is in the $26 range. That is a significant difference. The Beam product which is more in line from a price standpoint is Knob Creek (their is about a $2 difference). I think a taste comparison between Knob Creek and EWSB would be more representative of bourbons in a similar price point and heirarchy. Hmmmm...maybe I will give that tasting a try
Mike wrote:No contest!! EWSB is a better bourbon than BB.
Even though they are about the same cost and the same proof, EWSB wins, hand down. Of course, we all know that is merely my own personal preference, right? But, wait, let me 'splain why I think this is so, as I MOST ASSUREDLY do.
BB is a very good bourbon, and as I said in my recent review, just the thing for many folks. But, EWSB has more dimensions than BB. BB (to my palate) is too far on the sweet side and lacks the softness and stiffer backbone of EWSB. And, because BB is so sweet, it is not a soft bourbon.
What, you might ask, is the difference betwixt a sweet bourbon and a soft bourbon? A sweet bourbon activates less of the full tasting apparatus than does a soft bourbon. A soft bourbon is not assaultive ( never you mind for now that an assaultive bourbon can be a great bourbon - some Four Roses Bourbons come to mind), but neither is it shy......... BB is shy, seeking never to draw too much attention to itself, or to offend anyone.
An excellent soft bourbon, such as EWSB, achieves a great balance on the palate, a balance between the sweetness, the spice, and the sting of the alcohol as it drys in the mouth, leaving behind the distinct distillation and barrel remnants.
An excellent soft bourbon plays in the mouth like a string quartet, not like a brass band, or worse, elevator music.
An excellent soft bourbon has a certain delicacy, somewhat comparable to a first rate chocolate. In fact, I think there are many parallels betwixt the quality that is found in chocolate and the quality that is found in bourbon. The chocolates from Russell Stover are very good, but compared to those from Godiva they are lacking........ and even Godiva chocolates cannot hold a candle to the chocolates from, say, Jeff de Bruges Belgian chocolates.
BB, in my opinion, plays elevator music, and most really cheap bourbons play even poorer quality elevator music....... (I think Ezra Brooks BLack plays elevator music of a higher quality than most others..... even, with its slight edges. That is because, in part I think, it is a ninety proof bourbon).
An example of another great soft bour..... er, ah, whiskey, is Jack Daniel's Single Barrel. Both EWSB and JDSB achieve a certain 'delicacy' too, as do some Van Winkle bourbons.
'Delicacy' in whiskey, as opposed to 'softness, is difficult to describe, but there are differences. Softness is probably more dependent upon proof, but to a significant degree so is delicacy. A spirit cannot be both high alcohol and delicate (my opinion).
Back to chocolate, the chocolates from Jeff de Bruges are much more delicate than those of Russell Stover.......... the RS chocolate are very dependent on sweetness, and on sugar. The Jeff de Bruges chocolates are much less dependent on sugar and much more on the refinement of the chocolate itself...... and they are much more expensive.
'Delicacy' in whiskey is very dependent on the quality of the distillate....... poor distillates leave behind too many of those elements that damage the flavor. After distillation, aging in good barrels makes the difference. With most modern producers of spirit the distillate will be of excellent quality because of extensive quality control measures.
A quick aside...... the most delicate spirit is high quality Cognac.... it is in a class by itself here, and the world spirit market has long recognized this. Its French competitior, Armagnac, is distilled once, unlike Cognac, which is distilled twice. The distillation of Armagnac leaves behind more of those qualities that are less 'polished' and less 'delicate' than those of Cognac. There are those folks who prefer this. Next in delicacy, in my estimation, is Irish Whiskey. The best IW is simply wonderful, it is triple distilled and usually aged in used bourbon barrels, from which it gets a slight degree of spice. The delicacy of either Cognac or Irish Whiskey cannot be matched by ANY American Whiskey (a few Canadian Whiskies are very, very, delicate). The issue, (as always, my opinion) is the corn. Grapes (Cognac) and Malt (Irish Whiskey) produce a more delicate distillate (while retaining some of the characteristics of the fermentable source...... i.e. grape, malt, or corn.... we are not talking about making vodka here) than does the corn.
BUT, a big butt is ever an asset, but when it is not..... American whiskey was, and is, never intended to be a delicate spirit. Ever has it been a robust and almost rugged spirt. EWBS will not be a favorite with many folks for that reason..... but compared to Cognac (and to IW) it is not 'delicate' in the way I described.
Beam Black approaches 'softness' strictly from the sweet side, as do Russell Stover candies, and what 'delicacy' it has it confuses with sweetness. EWSB knows more about delicacy than BB ever will, and I applaud that. Beam Black is a bit like a made for TV movie. Evan Willaims Single Barrel is more like a Hemingway story..... American to the core, but sophisticated in its brashness.
I am one who loves the spirits from many of the world's regions, and respects their skill at making spirits in their own traditions. Thus, I honor delicacy in American Whiskey when it can be found. I also honor, in American Whiskey, that robust and challenging spirit so often found there, and love it above all other world spirits.
I can be assailed for this opinion, and probably should be, but I think BB plays to the mediocre in the American spirit.
Thank you for your patience (if you have made your way through this thicket) in reading this, and remember anyone who would challenge what I have offered here is most welcomed to do so..........
Still, I would contend by all the knowledge of spirits that I have at my command, Evan Williams Single Barrel Bourbon is better than Jim Beam Black Label Bourbon........ it just is!!
As I have ever claimed on BE, subjectivity may be the be all and end all for some (and there is no doubt of the power of that claim), but that is not a good place to end things....... it is far too easy to end disagreements with a flick of the hand that says, that is my opinon and that is good enough. In disagreement with that sentiment, I have offered this entire post, knowing full well that it is not accepted opinion in regard to subjective opinions being open to admendment. What I offer goes agin the grain in American culture, which tends to hold that all opinions (because of subjectivity claims) are equal......... but, 'tis my strong belief that there are standards, standards by which we judge things aside from subjective opinions, for, without these standards, there is mere chaos...... But we do owe it to those with whom we disagree about those standards to offer cogent reasons for our disagreement with them.
Thus it is that I say that EWSB is 'better' than BB, (much as Godiva chocolate is better than Russell Stover chocolate) and I have given cogent reasons for that belief. You may offer your won cogent reasons as to why BB is better, and if they are good enough, maybe I would change my mind, with the understanding that taste, like most everthing in life is subject to alteration with more information. Taste in whiskey is not the equivalent of a deep religious (and likely unalterable) experience.
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