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Evan Williams

If you haven’t heard of Evan Williams, I’m not entirely sure where you’ve been, but you need to leave that place, now. The jewel of Heaven Hill Distilleries considerable crown, this bourbon ranks today as the second largest selling Kentucky straight bourbon and the second largest supply of aging Kentucky bourbon in the world. Heaven Hill, boasts an inventory of more than a million barrels. This is big-league bourbon, and Evan Williams has held that status for a seriously long time.

The brand’s named was inspired by a Welshman named, err.. Evan Williams. Unlike many of those folk legends you hear about, featuring the kind of swashbuckling pioneers and intrepid Celts in need of a fresh start that bourbons and whiskeys tend to borrow their name from, the story of Evan Williams is actually well-known and accounted for. We know he left his distillery in Pembrokeshire to emigrate to America, and that he started a corn farm. We also know that he discovered pretty quickly that Kentucky makes a lot of corn. He decided with the excess he would do what he did best and began to distill his own whiskey.

In 1783 he set up his distillery on the banks of the Ohio River, and today, a marker stands at that very spot officially declaring Evan Williams as ‘Kentucky’s First Commercial Distiller’. Williams’ traditional 200 year old recipe is still used today by Heaven Hill to produce their Evan Williams bourbons, and he is commonly recognised as one of the founding fathers of Bourbon. I told you, didn’t I? Big league bourbon.

Today, the stills of the Heaven Hill distillery stand proud in downtown Louisville, producing a modest one barrel a day. Why only one barrel? Because Heaven Hill demands a certain level of quality control and care, so only one barrel can be made at a time. Yup. Just. One. At. A. Time.

Heaven Hill still meet their enormous demand however, and the site itself is a beautiful example of a fully functional, artisanal pot-still distillery. Located on Louisville’s historic ‘Whiskey Row,’ Heaven Hill allow tours of this functioning piece of history, named the ‘Evan Williams Bourbon Experience’. Somewhere for you to, respectfully, get your whiskey freak on. The distillery is wilfully manned by Craig Beam (yes, of that Beam family) and Denny Potter, who was brought in after the passing of Craig’s dad and master distiller emeritus Parker Beam, as co-master distiller.

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