Cinnamon flavored alcohol seems to be slowly following in the footsteps of spiced rum; companies are beginning to spit their own takes out, bit by bit. Goldschlager’s gone through somewhat of a surgence, we were treated to Fireball Whisky not too long ago, and even the latest offering from Malibu, Island Spiced, promises “caribbean rum infused with coconut, vanilla and a hint of cinnamon.”
And here we have Evan Williams, certainly no stranger to flavor-infused spirits. They’ve already granted us affordable liqueurs in the form of Reserves (honey and cherry), each sharing their own bit of success. Naturally, a new flavor has worked its way out of the distilleries and onto store shelves. Cinnamon Reserve promises a “hot cinnamon taste” along with “a hint of fire and spice” and, if my time with Honey Reserve was any indication, one heck of a sticky, syrupy experience.
A picture of cinnamon churros with 2D flames is certainly eye-catching amidst aisles of black, white and brown labels. The copper color of the full bottle proves to be misleading, as the spirit’s saturation quickly fades when poured, unlike the more consistent Honey Reserve. On the nose there’s a definite cinnamon character (what a shock), though I can’t help but compare it to Fireball, which is far more forward. It’s odd too, since Fireball is a cinnamon-infused whisky, while Evan Williams is merely a liqueur, so the bourbon-whiskey essence is played down.
If you gave me both Cinnamon Reserve and Fireball in a blind taste test without trying either beforehand, however, I’d have thought very differently. Where a shot of Fireball tingles your mouth and taste buds like a tasty, spicy chicken wing, Evan Williams gives you a more straightforward cinnamon flavor with cordial and bourbon essence immediately on the finish. More cinnamon briefly creeps back up, but it doesn’t stick around nearly long enough to leave a remotely strong impression.
Much like Crown Royal Maple, the cinnamon of Fireball felt like it was an actual part of the whiskey. Yet with so much flavor, combined with a fairly tame amount of alcohol (66 proof), Fireball lacked the soul of a true whiskey. What it offered instead was a rather refreshing experience, given the gimmicky premise. Evan Williams, by comparison, wants to be a jack of all trades. It wants to feed you the added flavor, but not so that cinnamon is the only thing it offers. Sadly, the rest of the drink is not very worthwhile. That lingering, syrupy character which Honey Reserve bathed in is present here, bringing out an experience that makes me suspect this stuff has high fructose corn syrup. It doesn’t have this issue quite as bad as Honey Reserve, but without as much of a flavorful profile, it’s hard for me to be generous.
I hate turning this review into a comparison, but it’s damn-near inescapable. Evan Williams have simply found themselves stuck on the backburner once again. Honey Reserve was an ample supply of honey, but once considered alongside Wild Turkey’s American Honey, the lower price tag began to make even more sense. Not that Honey Reserve was a bad product, it just didn’t have much of a place amongst vastly superior (Wild Turkey) and commendably different peers (Jack Daniel’s, Bushmills). Cinnamon Reserve can at least enjoy the potential for more accessibility in recipes, though if my town is any indication, its not going to be the easiest bottle to find. What we have here is a spirt that feels timid, afraid of giving us the flavor and experience touted on the very bottle. It’s not a bad drink, per se, but when you can get a more authentic and fulfilling experience for literally the same price elsewhere, it’s tough to look at the glass half full.