One of the most popular new sectors of the spirits business is a somewhat unusual one. Building on the popularity of the ubiquitous flavored vodkas, several distillers have started introducing flavored whiskeys.
According to the production information, Evan Williams Cherry Reserve combines aged bourbon with "natural cherry flavor." The distiller can't legally call this bourbon, so you won't find that word anywhere on the bottle. But that's what it is, albeit with the addition of cherry and some other stuff as well, like caramel coloring. Presumably sugar, too, considering how sweet it is.
On the nose, it's all sweet cherries. Very nice if you like cherries — and I love them. So I enjoyed the aroma very much. The cherries come across strong in the taste as well, along with a little nutty bitterness and a modest alcohol kick. There's a hint of almonds, which made me think of Amaretto.
It's nice stuff. Sweet — you'll notice I keep mentioning that — but with a pleasing flavor. The cherry is more authentic than you usually find in spirits like this. It thankfully avoids that cough syrup taste that plagues a lot of the competitors.
This liqueur is 35% alcohol, making it almost as strong as standard spirits, which are generally 40%. So be careful. Even with the high alcohol content (for a liqueur), it still goes down pretty easily and could sneak up on you.
After drinking it on the rocks, which I liked, I tried Cherry Reserve with Diet Coke. That was too sweet and cloying, however. (It would probably be really bad with regular Coke.) So I tried out one of the recipes on the Evan Williams website to see how the spirit would taste in a cocktail.
1 1/2 oz Evan Williams Cherry Reserve
1/2 oz Dry White Rum
1/2 oz Triple Sec
2 oz Pineapple Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a Collins glass with ice.
A tasty, pseudo-Tiki cocktail. Sweet for sure, but I liked it. (If I were to make it again, I'd probably eliminate the OJ and replace it with 1/2 oz of Lime Juice to see if that balances it out a little better.) If you like fruity drinks, it's worth giving a try. Just don't have more than one, or the sugar will kill you.
Evan Williams Cherry Reserve is a spirit that will find most of its audience among younger drinkers, and others who enjoy things on the sweet side. It is not a sophisticated spirit, so those looking for complexity should look elsewhere.
It does, however, present a nice opportunity to introduce bourbon (in an "enhanced" form, of course) to those drinkers who aren't yet fans of whiskey's charms. I have not yet had the opportunity to taste Evan Williams' regular bourbon, but I look forward to doing so.
Quality Grade: B
Value Grade: A
Final Grade: B+