I recently finished an exhaustive survey of Evan Williams Single Barrel releases which was set up by the Bourbon Dork. As you may know, Evan Williams Single Barrel is an annual Heaven Hill release of single barrel versions of its popular Evan Williams Bourbon. These nine to ten year old bourbons regularly get high marks from reviewers and people scour shelves for older versions.
I tasted a series of twelve versions representing each distillation year from 1988 through 1999. This tasting was as exhausting as it was exhaustive, mostly because the majority of these bourbons were pretty middling. A few were quite bad, a few were above average, none was worth raving about. I was quite surprised that these widely heralded bourbons didn't perform better, and lest you think it was just because I'm quirky, I was pretty much within the consensus of the ten experienced tasters in the group. Indeed, I probably thought they were generally better than the tasting group.
I don't want to burden you with all of my notes (though you can find them all on the LA Whiskey Society site), so I thought I would give a quick summary.
My favorite was the 1995 which was one of the few that had some real wood on it. The runners up were the 1992, which also had a good wood/sweet balance, and the 1996 which had some nice citrus and spice notes.
The worst of these were the 1997, which was bitter, and 1998 which had a sort of dulled flavor. And the rest of them were pretty mediocre.
Now of course, these are single barrel bourbons which means there can be variance from barrel to barrel even within a given year. That being said, I was so unimpressed with this whole lineup that you won't see me dropping any cash for Evan Williams Single Barrel expressions in the future.