As a young boy in Georgian Britain, Welshman Evan Williams dreamt of green hills and pristine lands. Born in Dale, Pembrokshire, his ambition, and an unquenchable thirst for adventure that was characteristic of the era, would lead him to the shores of North America. Evan’s exploits there, with his most memorable contribution dating from just about a few years after the conclusion of the American Revolution, would become a timeless blend – something to cheer about.
The Story of Evan Williams
Dale, a quaint hamlet located on the Dale Peninsula, the northern edge of the Milford Haven estuary, West Wales, was a marcher borough, controlled by the Norman de Vale family from the 13th Century Vale Castle. Evan was born in the village in the late 18th Century and, true to the spirit of the age, had a taste for adventures and new lands. He immigrated to the Americas, venturing into what was then the untamed frontiers of Kentucky.
Settling in the land between the Kentucky Hills, Evan started out as a homestead farmer. His ambition would lead him on the path of greatness, and Evan would take on the roles of a building contractor, harbormaster, businessman, inventor, a noted distiller, and an eminent civil leader. He made a lasting impression on the community through his leadership and devotion to civic duties.
Evan's was outspoken, controversial, and a natural front runner. With him around, the business of government didn’t have to be either boring or dry. And certainly not dry! Despite the rules that prohibited the use of whiskey at meetings, legend has it that he would always bring along a jug of his finest whiskey, only to have it confiscated promptly. Funnily enough, at the end of every meeting, he still managed to leave with an empty jug (turns out, he wasn’t the only one drinking it). You could well say that Evan had put the party in politics.
Evan’s greatest contribution, however, was something that could be tied closely to the rolling cornfields of Kentucky. He distilled his crops into one fine batch of smooth whiskey after another, turning out a product that would become the toast of many a table for generations. He set up his own distillery on the banks of the Ohio river in 1783, a spot marked out today by a plaque declaring Evan as Kentucky’s First Commercial Distiller. While there may be some alternate views on the historicity of the exact date, what is certain is that the brand continues to be appreciated by connoisseurs across the world.
Evan Williams Today
Globally, Evan Williams is the second largest producer of Kentucky bourbon, and has one of the fastest-growing market shares among the major American whiskey brands. The company is also the owner of what is possibly the world’s second largest stock of ageing Kentucky bourbon whiskey – an inventory of over a million barrels.
Heritage forms a key component of the Evan Williams story, and the company features prominently on the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience – a tourist attraction in Louisville that is part of the renowned Kentucky Bourbon Trail. This fully operational, artisanal pot-still distillery needs a hands-on approach, and led by a master artisanal distiller, produces exactly one barrel of whiskey a day.
The Heaven Hill facility, located in Louisville, Kentucky, constitutes the core of the Evan Williams saga with the spirits being bottled in Bardstown. While the standard issue bourbon is available in the Black Label variety, the company does also offer several other variants, including a White Label, a 9 YO single barrel whiskey, and a limited version Evan Williams 1783.