Distilled: Early Times, Louisville, Ketucky, USA (Brown-Forman)
Age: 9 yrs, 5 mos
Proof: 86.6 (43.3% ABV)
Appearance: Auburn with thin clingy legs.
Nose: Oak, pecan, alcohol, raw almonds, hint of cocoa, touch of wild blackberry.
On the palate: Amaretto, caramel, toffee, burn, much less tannic on the palate than in the nose.
Finish: Pretty hot and aggressive, but not unpleasant. Caramel, vanilla, dark chocolate, a kiss of oak. Lasts a very long time.
Parting words: The Evan Williams Single Barrel series has been going on for quite a while now. While all are single barrel (duh), all the barrels picked are very close to each other in flavor profile so there is usually little variation between bottles from the same “vintage”.
This one, the 1998, is one of my favorites. It has a big, woody nose but turns to soft caramel in the mouth, reminiscent of Elijah Craig 12 y/o or some of the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon offerings. There’s a reason for the latter resemblence. In 1996, the old Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown burnt to the ground in the biggest distillery fire on record in the US. In the spirit of collegiality that Kentucky distillers have for each other, Beam and Brown-Forman helped out Heaven Hill and contract distilled for them while Heaven Hill got its current distillery in Louisville (purchased from Diageo) up to speed. The 1997 vintage was produced by Jim Beam, and the 1998 and 1999 ones were produced by Brown-Forman.
This series is easily collectable and very drinkable, especially in the summer time. Not all vintages are particularly interesting, but always good. One of the few drawbacks to them is the low proof. In keeping with other Evan Williams expressions, the single barrel edition is 86 proof (and some change), pretty low for a product like this. Despite the low proof, this vintage still shines as one of the best. Evan Williams Single Barrel, 1998 Vintage is a very good whiskey and is highly recommended.