Four Roses vs Evan Williams

Four Roses vs Evan Williams | Which bourbon’s best for you?

Are you looking for a delicious bourbon to try?

With so many brands and varieties to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which one to purchase. 

Two of the most popular American bourbons to choose from are Four Roses and Evan Williams. Both brands have great heritage and their famous bourbon has been enjoyed for generations. 

But which of these two whiskeys is best? 

In this article, we’ll compare Four Roses vs Evan Williams to help you decide which is the perfect choice for you. We’ll examine their flavour profiles, production methods, and prices to determine which of these two brands is the superior choice. 

Whether you’re looking for the smoothest bourbon, something classic or something with a little more character, this article will help you decide which one is the best drink for you.

Four Roses whisky distillery building
Four Roses whisky distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky.

History of Four Roses

For more than 140 years, Four Roses Bourbon has been one of America’s most beloved spirits. The story of the brand begins in 1888, when founder Paul Jones Jr. opened a whiskey distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The original business was called the Old P.J. Distillery, and it produced a variety of different spirits.

Jones was well-known for his quality whiskey and innovative marketing techniques, and Four Roses quickly became one of the most successful distilleries in the country. In 1943, Seagram had purchased the brand and changed its name to Four Roses. 

Four Roses was the best-selling bourbon in the US during the 1950s and 1960s, but as Seagram started to concentrate more on other spirits, it was discontinued in the  United States. After a 40-year absence, the brand was brought back to the United States in 2004 after being purchased by Kirin Brewing Company in 2002.

Currently Four Roses produce a range of limited-edition bourbon releases, as well as a variety of single barrel and small batch bourbon expressions, with each one reflecting the unique love and craftsmanship that Paul Jones Jr. put into the original Four Roses recipe. It is renowned for its distinctive production method, which entails blending their ten bourbon recipes to produce its distinguishing flavour.

Bottle of Evan Williams Kentucky Bourbon lying on wooden table beside drinking glass

History of Evan Williams Bourbon

Evan Williams Bourbon is a brand of Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey produced in Louisville, Kentucky by Heaven Hill Distilleries. It is the second-largest-selling brand of Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey in the United States after Jim Beam. 

Evan Williams Bourbon was first distilled in 1783 in Louisville, Kentucky. Williams, a Welsh immigrant and Revolutionary War veteran, established the first commercial distillery in the state. He registered it in 1783 with the Jefferson County Clerk, making it the first distillery to be officially recorded in Kentucky. 

In the early 19th century, the distillery was moved to what is now Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville. Soon after, the distillery was purchased by the Bernheim family in 1938. 

The Bernheims changed the name of the distillery to Heaven Hill Distilleries and began producing Evan Williams Bourbon, also known as Evan Williams Black Label in 1957. Today, it’s produced in a 50-acre distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. 

The Evan Williams Bourbon has won numerous awards, including a Gold Medal from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2006 and a Double Gold Medal from the same competition in 2008. It was the official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby in 2022.

Making Four Roses Bourbon

Ten Recipes

One of the most unique aspects to the Four Roses whiskey making process is their matric of ten bourbon recipes. At their Lawrenceburg distillery, they use two mash bills and five yeast strains to create ten different bourbons.

Depending on the whiskey being made, they blend these bourbons together to create balance, contrast and depth in their range of core and limited bottlings.

For example, Four Roses Yellow Label blends all ten of the recipes. In their Small Batch release; four. And in their Single Barrel, only one recipe is used.

Sour Mash

Like most straight bourbons, Four Roses use the traditional sour mash technique. 

First they mill all three of their carefully selected grains into coarse flours; corn, rye and malted barley. The corn and rye are cooked before being mixed with the malted barley and water in a tank to make a sugary ‘sweet mash’ mixture.

The mash is then moved to another tank where one of five types of yeast is added. To encourage proper fermentation, a small portion of previously used grain (the sour) is added from a previous batch to acidify the mixture. After 5 days, the sugary liquid slowly ferments to become 8% ABV distillers beer, otherwise known as the ‘wash’.


To make their whiskeys, Four Roses use a double distillation technique. The wash is transferred to one of the distillery’s two 20ft tall Vendome column stills and slowly heated. The alcohol evaporates due to the heat, progressively becoming more alcoholic as the vapour rises upwards through the still. Eventually, it pushes its way out the top as a relitively pure 66% ABV clear spirit.

To clear the spirit of any lingering impurities, the spirit distilled once more using a smaller spirit still called a ‘doubler’. Once more, alcohol is heated, evaporates and is collected in a spirit receiver. Purer and much higher in alcohol, this clear liquid is the final distillate – the “new make spirit” at around 70% ABV.


The new make spirit is then aged in American oak barrels for a minimum of four years before being bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV (80 proof). The fire-charred interior surface of the new American Oak barrel gives the bourbon notes of sweet vanilla and toffee as well as oak and woody flavours. During its four years of maturation, the new make spirit slowly adopts its colour and complex flavour profile.

Copper stills inside Evan Williams distillery
Copper stills inside Evan Williams distillery, Louisville, Kentucky.

Making Evan Williams Bourbon

Makers of Evan Williams bourbon, Heaven Hill, operates between two locations. Their distillery in Louisville and their warehouse and bottling facility in nearby Bardstown – both in Kentucky. Evan Williams black label bourbon is made using the traditional sour mash technique and a single distillation method which you read about below.

Do the mash

Evan Williams Black Label is crafted using Heaven Hill’s classic bourbon mash bill of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley.

The process begins with these three grains being ground and mixed with hot water to create a sweet mash. This sugary liquid is then mixed with yeast and a portion of ‘spent grains’ (the sour) which ferments in large tanks for several days. Slowly, the yeast converts the sugars in the mash into a basic 7.5% ABV beer called the ‘wash’.


Next, the fermented wash is heated in Heaven Hill’s 5 storey tall column still. As the temperature of the wash rises, alcohol vapours are released, travel up the still and exit the top of the column.

The vapours travel into a smaller second type of still called a thumper which recondense into liquid spirit. With more gaseous alcohol pushing its way in, the condensed spirit gradually gets hotter and eventually begins to boil. This releases a much stronger alcoholic vapour which exits the thumper, passes through a cooling coil and condenses back into a liquid form known as new make spirit.

This crystal clear spirit has an ABV of around 68% or 136 proof (US) which is ready to be matured in American oak barrels for ageing at the Bardstown plant.


With the new make spirit filled into its charred new oak barrel, it’s left to become whiskey, maturing for several years until it reaches peak flavour. Deemed ready by a master distiller, it’s then transported to Heaven Hill’s bottling building in Bardstown and sold as Evan Williams Bourbon.

As the age of the bourbon is NAS (no age statement) it is at least 4 years old. The end result is a smooth, flavourful bourbon that has been enjoyed by whiskey lovers for generations. 

Single Barrel Four Roses vs Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon

Person pouring Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon into drinking glass

Four Roses Single Barrel tasting notes

Nose: Rich, fruity, toffee, spices, chocolate and hints of vanilla

Palate: Spices, vanilla, cocoa, prunes, vanilla and fruits.

Finish: Chocolate, butterscotch and oak.

Price: $43 / £36

Four Roses Single Barrel flavour profile

The Four Roses Single Barrel is a smooth and flavourful whiskey that is great for sipping. The nose is full of sweet and fruity aromas, such as apples and pears, with a hint of oak. The taste is complex, with notes of toffee, vanilla, and a bit of cinnamon, all balanced nicely by oak and a hint of spiciness. The finish is long and smooth, with a lingering sweetness and a hint of oak. 

This is an excellent whiskey for sipping neat or with a few drops of water. It also makes an excellent addition to many cocktails. Its flavour profile is robust enough to stand up to other ingredients, but not overpowering. 

When pairing food with this bourbon, look for dishes that will complement and enhance its flavours. Fried chicken is a classic dish that pairs wonderfully with the Single Barrel. The savoury, crispy chicken skin and meat will bring out the caramel and oak flavours of the bourbon. 

Barbecue ribs are another great option when looking for something to pair the bourbon with. The sweet and smoky barbecue sauce complements the ripe stone fruit flavours.

Caramel apple pie is a great dessert option to try with the Single Barrel. The caramel and oak flavours of the bourbon will enhance the sweet, tart flavours of the apples.

These are just a few of the dishes that pair perfectly with the Four Roses Single Barrel. With its smooth and mellow flavours, this bourbon is sure to be a hit with any meal.

Bottle of black label Evan Williams bourbon sitting beside two drinking glasses

Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon tasting notes

Nose: Rich notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak with a subtle hint of smoky spice. 

Palate: Sweet and smooth, with flavours of toasted oak, dark fruits, and honey. 

Finish: A long, warm finish with lingering notes of oak, spice, and sweetness.

Price: $14 / £12

Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon flavour profile

It has a rich aroma of vanilla, oak, and caramel, with hints of spice and toasted almonds. On the palate, the whiskey is smooth with a sweet and spicy flavour. Vanilla, oak, and caramel continue to dominate, while notes of cinnamon, toasted nuts, and brown sugar are noticeable in the background. 

The whiskey has a medium to long finish with a pleasant warmth that lingers on the tongue. Evan Williams Bourbon is a great choice for whiskey connoisseurs looking for a smooth, balanced, and flavourful spirit. It is also great for sipping neat or in cocktails.

Its rich and complex flavour profile makes it an ideal choice for a variety of different drinks and foods. Cheese is a classic pairing for this bourbon. Try a sharp cheddar, blue cheese, or Gorgonzola with a glass of Evan Williams for a savoury and complex combination. 

Chocolate is also a great option to pair with the Evan Williams Bourbon. Try pairing a dark chocolate bar with a glass of whiskey for a decadent and sweet treat. 

Fruits are a great way to bring out the sweetness of the bourbon. Apples, pears, or stone fruits like cherries or peaches are all perfect with this sweet whiskey.

Four Roses Single BarrelEvan Williams Bourbon
NoseRich, fruity, toffee, spices, chocolate and hints of vanillaRich notes of caramel, vanilla, and oak with a subtle hint of smoky spice. 
PalateSpices, vanilla, cocoa, prunes, vanilla and fruits.Sweet and smooth, with flavours of toasted oak, dark fruits, and honey.
FinishChocolate, butterscotch and oak.A long, warm finish with lingering notes of oak, spice, and sweetness.
AgeUsually, 8-9 yearsUsually, 4-6 years
ClassificationStraight BourbonStraight Bourbon
CaskAmerican white oakAmerican oak
Chill filteredYesYes
Price (USD/GBP)$43 / £36$24 / £20
Four Roses vs Evan Williams comparison table

Final thoughts on Four Roses vs Evan Williams

Four Roses and Evan Williams are two popular bourbons that each offer unique flavour profiles, but the debate will likely continue for years to come. While both are solid choices, it ultimately comes down to personal preference. 

Four Roses is a bit smoother and slightly sweeter, while Evan Williams is slightly spicier and more full-bodied. Depending on the occasion, either can be the perfect choice. 

So, if you’re looking for a smooth, sweet sipping bourbon, go with Four Roses. If you prefer something a bit bolder, Evan Williams is the way to go. No matter which you choose, you can be sure you’re getting a superior quality spirit with a rich heritage. With so many different varieties of both brands available, there are plenty of opportunities to explore and discover your ideal bourbon.

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