Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review: Evan Williams Honey Reserve

A while back I reviewed a new Seagram product called "7 Dark Honey", a whiskey liqueur that is flavored with honey. The product mostly missed the mark: its whiskey base was the underwhelming Seagram's 7, its aroma and flavor were dominated by alcohol, it tasted just as much of a generic (brown) sugar as it did honey, and its character was completely lost when mixed with anything else. This failure was particularly salient when compared to its competitor, Wild Turkey's American Honey liqueur. American Honey was bourbon based, and its honey flavor was prominent and enjoyable.

Well, I spoke too soon. Shortly after the review(s), I stumbled across Evan Williams' entry into the product segment.

I'm a huge Evan Williams fan. For about $15, their normal black label bourbon is one of the best liquor values I know. The price makes you feel fine while mixing it away, but it's certainly refined enough to enjoy alone in a glass, which I do often.

The Review

Evan Williams Honey Reserve

Most of the Evan Williams bourbon flavor doesn't come through, despite its bourbon base, though if you pass up trying this product, you'll regret it severely.

In the Glass

I daresay that Honey Reserve is thicker than its competitors. Its viscosity is luxurious. But with that, its color is so light that you'd swear it uses a base other than whiskey.


The aroma of Honey Reserve immediately hits you, and it's fruity... mostly of lemon. Whereas the 7 Dark Honey's aroma is nonexistent and the American Honey smells faintly of bourbon, the Evan Williams immediately makes its aroma known. Aside from lemon, I'm detecting a brown sugar aroma, much like its competitors.


Strangely enough, the overwhelming flavor in this stuff is of fruit. It's got an overall fruitiness that is constant, and soon enough you realize that most of it is lemon. The sweetness coats your tongue, like this others; this one is mostly of honey, but there's some brown sugar in there too. After a while, you can begin to notice faint hints of vanilla, and even the sweetness of corn from the whiskey. The swallow brings more fruitiness and brown sugar.


This stuff is heavenly over a few ice cubes... you'll find yourself struggling to stray from either doing that or mixing it with bourbon in various proportions. I think I successfully mixed this stuff into a Manhattan and it was good, but that was a long time ago. You can make it into an Old Fashioned by simply putting some bitters in it and throwing on a good twist of lemon.

I set out to do something much more radical with it, just for giggles. I came up with something of a Martini variation, but it doesn't taste like it. Let's call it the...

Laced Straight

2 oz gin
.5 oz Evan Williams Honey Reserve
.5 oz dry vermouth

Stir with ice, and strain. Garnish with lemon twist.

This thing is great. The honey manages to keep the gin's botanicals in check, and there's a resulting nuttiness in the mix. It's sweeter than most clear gin drinks you'll ever have, which is a little disconcerting.


This is by far the best American honey whiskey product on the market. It takes a slightly different tack from its competitors by embracing a lemony fruitiness to accompany the wheat and the honey, but the risk paid off.

The moment I tasted Honey Reserve for the first time, I knew it was the best in its class. Weeks later, my suspicions were confirmed when I saw it behind the bar at the exceptional PS7 in Washington, DC.

Oh, and by the way, its price is smack dab in the middle of its two competitors. I'm not sure what more to tell you, other than to go buy some now.

Bonus: Here's what the Drink Hacker said about the stuff, and here is a piece done by Bourbon Blog on how one restaurant uses it to make a cocktail along with BBQ sauce.


  1. I think that I need to give this stuff another go ... I've only tried "honey" whiskey once and it was the WT Honey; wasn't sure if I liked it (although it probably wasn't a good test ... sipping on that over a fine cigar), very strong honey/sweet flavor that seemed to dominate the main spirit profile.

    Will put this on the list of "to try" spirits.

  2. I now have it on the shopping list to try. We will see what kind of creation this one will bear fruit to. Thanks

  3. Having tried Evan Williams' Honey Reserve, Seagram's Dark Honey, and Wild Turkey's American Honey, I'd put Dark Honey above American Honey, followed by Honey Reserve. Wild Turkey's and Evan Williams' were, in my humble opinion, too sweet with the honey, with Dark Honey having a less sweet honey taste (I don't really like sweet drinks). Although, I quite enjoyed Evan Williams with some ginger ale or black tea. For a sit-down I'd probably go with Wild Turkey, but my flask is going to have Seagrams in it.

  4. Evans Williams Honey Reserve tastes amazing mixed with lemonade!

  5. good but really SWEET!!!! JD Honey was better IMO.
    -Naples, FL

    1. I agree a splash of crown "black" makes it a tad more full bodied.

  6. Evan WIlliams Honey Reserve is a nice try. But, Jack Daniels Honey is much better in that it retains bourbon flavors. I agree whole heartedly with DJ Hawaiianshirt that it is dominantly fruity. Orange-fruit to me, like REGULAR Wild Turkey, sweet and orangey. I dont care for Wild Turkey or orangey whiskey. JD's Honey reminds me of some great German Honey Liquor I had at a German beer house, its bottle was shaped like a honeycomb. Honey-based booze is ANCIENT. Mead was the most probably the first booze, and honey based. Thats how the German Honey Liquor tasted like, ancient flavors of ancient times. And so did the JD Honey. It had an archaic quality of old old schoolness.
    If you like regular Wild Turkey, youll like Evan Williams Honey Reserve, as it has that orangey, fruity WT flavor.

  7. I would have to recommend Wild Turkey Honey 100 proof. The higher proof makes up for the sweetness. The Evan Williams is quite tasty, however.

  8. -10 on the thermometer, down comforter on the bed, electricity is still on... thank God I have Evan Williams honey in a Waterford tumbler over ice, sipping, what blizzard?

  9. Just got some. About try it out. The JD honey was good. The end.