Whisky Advocate

Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel (2000 Vintage)

November 18th, 2009

The classic hits from Heaven Hill Distilleries just keep coming this year. First it was Parker’s Heritage Collection Golden Anniversary (Score: 97). Then it was the Rittenhouse Rye 25 year old Single Barrel (Score: 96). And now this gem. Well done!

EWBottle_2000_WebEvan Williams Single Barrel (2000 vintage), Barrel No. 1, 43.3%, $26
Very elegant, bright and silky smooth, with honey-kissed summer fruits, subtle tropical fruit (papaya, coconut, pineapple), gentle caramel, sweet corn, and soothing vanilla, along with a dusting of cinnamon, nutmeg and crisp mint. Pleasing, gently spicy finish. The most impressive aspect of this whiskey isn’t its variety of flavors (they are fairly traditional for a bourbon this age). It’s the integration and remarkable balance of these flavors! It’s also perilously drinkable. I can’t speak for the other barrels, but if you can track down some Barrel #1, buy two! You won’t be disappointed. Let me also note what a great value this whiskey is, compared to the way other premium American whiskeys are being priced. 

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 95

38 Responses to “Review: Evan Williams Single Barrel (2000 Vintage)”

  1. sam k says:

    John, that seems like the Holy Trinity (or at least the Perfect Storm) of ratings for any distillery’s premium lineup! Great job, Heaven Hill! I just wish any (or all!) of them was available here in archaic PA. :-(

  2. Red_Arremer says:

    It’s good of you to note that you can’t speak for the other barrel’s and put that right in the review. You’d think that such a limitation in the scope of a review would be obvious to anyone reading a review of any #single# cask/barrel offering, but for some reason it just isn’t. Many people are very ready to lay the same expectation and hype of a review of one barrel of whisky on any other barrel from the same brand.

  3. John Hansell says:

    Sam: yeah, I really wish PA would step up to the plate and start stocking the specialty whiskeys (and whiskies).

    Red: you can be sure that, if Barrel #1 is the review sample being sent to the whiskey press, it’s going to be a good one!I hope the other barrels are in the same ballpark.

  4. Mr Manhattan says:

    @Red_Arremer: But ostensibly all the barrels destined for the “single barrel” designation were treated more or less identically during their lifetime, moved together through the rickhouse, occasionally sampled and compared with one another for consistency and otherwise held to the standard for the brand. The differences between barrels should therefore be minimal—which is really to the advantage of everyone.

    Unless the distillery is cherry picking among all the barrels so the one they designate as “Cask 1″ is distinctly better than average, we should assume it’s merely representative of what’s to come from all the barrels, which is to say “Cask the First” and “Cask the Last” should be more or less the same.

  5. John Hansell says:

    Mr. Manhattan: I have sample casks of whisky side-by-side treated just the way as you describe above and they have tasted significantly different. Surprising, but true.

    Now having said this, one would hope that when they picked the barrels for this year’s release, they tried to achieve some sort of consistency from one cask to the next, similar to the way a cigar roller will try to pick the same quality and color tobacco when rolling a box of cigars.

  6. Vince says:

    JOhn

    How do you compare the 1999 bottling to the 2000? I’m just curious is the 2000 is one for the ages or if all of the EWSB’s are of this quality

  7. Wade says:

    Was this bottle sent to you as a publisher? Barrel #1? the honey barrel? I rather see a review of a random sample.

  8. John Hansell says:

    Vince, I like the 2000 better than the past few vintages. They all are generally quite good. Some are exceptional.

    Wade, that’s right. I believe that all press is getting a sample from this barrel. That’s why I made that distinction in my review. We usually get our review samples before the product is released to the public. I might, however, go and review a different barrel as time goes by and the whiskey becomes more redily available.

  9. Rick Duff says:

    At Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center (great visit if you can get there).. they have a display that shows barrels in every level of a rickhouse… and you can push a button and it will light up barrel locations for the Single Barrel, and I believe Elijiah Craig 18yo. The barrels almost always come from those locations.. however there will always be variances between rick houses, let alone the wood itself.. the grain of the wood.. age of the wood.. dry age length.. so many different factors. However.. I’d be surprised if they didn’t taste every barrel they bottle for this.. I’ve not had a bad bottle of the Evan Williams 10yo Single Barrel. If you like it, it’s also worth trying Elijiah Craig small batch 12 yo.. it’s usually around $20.

  10. Mr Manhattan says:

    @John: Thanks for the information.

    I remain fascinated by the “single barrel” designation as a marketing concept. It would hardly be in the interests of any distillery to release a widely distributed product that demonstrates significant variation between bottles. So I would assume that much work goes into “evening out” potential differences throughout the lifetime of barrels designated for release under such a program. Barrels which start to show significant deviation from their peers (in either direction) and from the target flavor profile in general would be culled out along the way.

    But then, perhaps, I am the only one who thinks that way. ;->

  11. BourbonBreath says:

    John,

    Do you know when the public release is???

    thanks!!!

  12. Texas says:

    Wow! Sounds fantastic. I just finished off a bottle of the 1999 and it was excellent. Can’t wait for the 2000 to show up at Spec’s here in Houston!

  13. John Hansell says:

    BourbonBreath, the whiskey is already getting into circulation. You can identify this year’s vintage by the new label.

    Texas, yes, last year’s vintage was nice too.

    Mr. Manhattan: sounds logical to me. I never asked Heaven Hill about their selection process, but maybe I will.

  14. Texas says:

    The fact they sell it for $26 (as you point out) is just amazing. Hope it stays that way.

  15. Mr Manhattan says:

    @John: Also to consider: to the best of my knowledge, all the HH bourbons are made from one mash bill. The differences between the various brands must therefore be achieved by selecting among the barrels as they age, moving them through the rick houses in specific ways to achieve different effects over time. I have also wondered if newly made barrels are themselves graded before they are filled, some being deemed more suitable for one brand than another.

  16. Euan says:

    Single barrel variation aside, the Evan Williams Single Barrels maintain a pretty high quality level IMHO. I have tasted every year back to the 1988 vintage and they were all good. I loved the vintage 1990 barrels in particular.

  17. Euan says:

    This is definitely post-fire juice. Where is it likely from John?

  18. John Hansell says:

    Euan, actually this is the first year in a few that it’s juice from Heaven Hill again.

  19. Abinash says:

    “It would hardly be in the interests of any distillery to release a widely distributed product that demonstrates significant variation between bottles”, said Mr.Manhattan. Maybe so, but think about it. Who has done wide comparisons between different barrells of, let’s say, EWSB vintage? I sure have read tasting notes between various EWSB vintages in Malt Advocate’s competitor magazine. I just would like to see intra-vintage tasting notes where several barrells of one vintage are tasted. My guess is that there would be (big) differences.

  20. Mr Manhattan says:

    @Abinash: Sounds like the makings of a great bit of spirit investigative journalism: buy bottles of EWSB 2000 from a range of barrels and then do a blind tasting. It would probably mean purchasing them in disparate locations around the US. Maybe this is even something that could be done as a collaboration between the “bourbon-ologists” who read this blog.

  21. [...] Malt Advocate has high marks for this Evan Williams single barrel. [...]

  22. [...] Evan Williams Single Barrel (2000 vintage) * – John Hansell gave the 2000 vintage a great review, and it’s quite inexpensive, so I want to try it. $26. [...]

  23. Ernie Adamo says:

    Took a quick trip up to Springfield Mass from my office in Hartford today and the store I visited just got in the EV 2000. Barrell No 82!

  24. Sean says:

    John, got a bottle of the 2000, barrel number 40 from Total Wine for $22. While I wouldn’t rate mine a 95 it is very enjoyable (high 80’s)and a great whisky value. Cinnamon, cloves, and some vanilla. A little oak but not overwhelming.

  25. Vince says:

    I purchased two bottles in Louisville right before the holidays. I am almost finished with my first bottle. It is very enjoyable. Well balanced, subtle caramel and vanilla with cinnamon and some mint. I would rate it at a 91. Also, one of the best values in the world of whiskey today

  26. Brian says:

    I just picked up a bottle of the 2000 vintage. Barrel #116. I didn’t find it to be all that exciting at first. I’ll have to give it another try this week – maybe I was having an off night when I had my first taste.

  27. david says:

    At $22 a bottle why split hairs. Most consumers cannot tell major difference let alone the little nuances pointed out here. The majority of those who critique could not tell the difference between a Faberge egg and a Easter egg.

  28. Matt C says:

    I have to agree with many others in the great value of this whiskey. A tasty whisky and no alcohol after taste or sting. I got mine, a ten year 1997 bottle this year Jan 2010 as a left over holiday box with a cigar holder/flask in one gift for $24! I’ll be looking for more or maybe buying out the rest of the stock!

  29. David says:

    John,

    Just finished off my second bottle of EWSB 1999, after reading your review I can’t wait to sample the 2000 vintage. I will be making a trip to my favorite bourbon outlet shortly looking for a 2000 bottle. Will gladly post my humble review thereafter. Side note, it is still hard to top any bottle of Blanton’s!

    David

  30. Dan says:

    Gentleman:

    A friend and I have recently purchased 2 bottles of Evan Williams Single Barrel, 2000, Barrel Numbers 284 and 316. We both enjoyed the bourbon but we both made the same conclusion. There seems to be this unidentified taste that we have not experienced in other bourbon whiskeys. What is this unidentified taste and have you experienced this in other bottles or brands?

  31. Ray says:

    Hello again John,

    My hat off to you for the review. You now, all these people wondering what barrel #, etc. is for the birds. Just buy a bottle and enjoy. How in the heck can you guys tell one barrel from another anyway, unless you have bought all the barreled bottles! I’m completely sure that they ALL taste great, isn’t that whats its all about. Just enjoy!
    These guys at Heaven Hill do not have a barrel big enough to bottle from the same barrel. They got the game, it’s not their first picnic. I like a little variety in life. All blondes aren’t beautiful, but they sure all have legs!
    Ray

  32. Kevin says:

    Well, I went to my local Total Wine and they had the 1999 and the 2000 EWSB so I picked up two separate barrels of the EWSB: #29 and #61. I started with the 29, being somewhat anal and doing things numerically.
    The 29 was smooth with a slight bite at the finish and heavy, fruity, caramel throughout that faded to a spicy vanilla flavor that reminded me of chai tea. The finish was quite spicy with a mild lasting finish. Overall a very good Bourbon and definitely the best Domestic whiskey I have ever tasted anywhere near this price range.
    I pulled out the 61 and plopped it down on the table next to the 29 and immediately noticed that it is much darker in color with the 29 being more of a honey-copper color and the 61 being closer to tea colored, and the flavor reflected this. The 61 was heavier on the tongue with a more robust smokiness that progressed to a toffee flavor that was completely devoid of any fruitiness that was more apparent in the 29. The finish was very similar with a mild spiciness and lasting finish.
    The differences aren’t stark, but certainly enough to say they are different. I enjoyed the 29 more as it seemed to have more depth and better balance. I am going to try them both tonight again in reverse order and see if that changes my perception. Overall, for a 21.99 bottle, this beats the pants off all but the priciest Domestic whiskeys.

  33. Shaun says:

    This stuff is fantastic for the price, arguably the best domestic whisky I have ever drank, for the price of Makers Mark. This belongs in every bourbon drinkers cabinet.

  34. Gary says:

    Sippin’ EWSB 2000 and it’s one fine SBB. Makes a good compliment to watchin’ the Cotton Bowl.

  35. Robo says:

    Ive been trying to build up a more robust Whiskey/Whisky palette and bar recently. Saw your review and decided to see if I could still find a bottle around. Luckily I just picked up a bottle of the 2000 vintage (bottle #932 barreled on 12-11-00, bottled on 9-12-10) and I would definitely rate this in the 93-95 range. Nose: heavy vanilla & caramel, slight toffee. Tasting: Great Mouth feel, very smooth. Vanilla again, stronger toffee, slight cinnamon, smoke undertones.

    Unbelievable whiskey for the price. Better than some $80+ Single Malt Scotches I’ve had. Definitely an “everyday whiskey”.

  36. Big Kahuna says:

    John

    The EWSB has long been my favorite bourbon, and my last bottle was of the 1997 vintage. After reading your review, I picked up the last two available bottles of the 2000 at my local merchant, both from barrel number 344. I guess out here in Honolulu we probably don’t have a prayer of getting one of the lower numbered barrels, but I’ll let you know how it compares to those single and double digit barrels the rest if you have on the mainland!

© Copyright 2014. Whisky Advocate. All rights reserved.