|Proof:||107 (53.5% ABV)|
Evan Williams 23 Year is not exclusive to the Japanese market, but it was created for the Japanese market in the late 1980s. Like Evan Williams 12 Year, it is possible to purchase this bottle at the Heaven Hill gift shop.
The earliest Evan Williams 23 Year of which I am aware was barreled in 1966 and bottled in 1989. Early bottles of Evan Williams listed the distillation year on the front of the bottle below the neck. I am not sure how long this practice continued, but I have seen bottles labeled 1968 and 1969.
This bourbon is unique because of its high proof. Most extra-aged bourbon have to be watered down to <100 proof in order to be palatable - otherwise the oaky flavors overwhelm the palate - or are bottled from barrels that have lost proof over time.
For example, Elijah Craig 18 is only 90 proof. Pappy Van Winkle 20 and 23 year are only 90.4 and 95.6 proof, respectively. Wild Turkey Master's Keep 17 is only 86.8 proof. Greater than 100 proof bourbons that are over 15 years old are quite rare.
So, how does this one taste?
First off, it's very dark. Not unexpected for a 23-year-old bourbon, Moving on, the nose if very sweet and rich with notes of grape soda, honey, brown sugar, dark cherries and, you guessed it, wood.
The palate begins sweet, with notes of honey and dry, slightly tannic, oak before resolving into dark fruits. The finish is long, dry and very hot - it is dominated by wood.
While I really like this bourbon, this doesn't mean you should go to the Heaven Hill gift shop and buy it. First, this is an older bottling that was likely selected when Heaven Hill had an abundance of older stocks. Second, there is some speculation that the gift shop bottles of EW23 are inferior to the export bottlings.
Verdict: EW23 is a unique bourbon, but you should probably buy it in Japan instead of the Heaven Hill gift shop.