EW Single Barrel is uniformly one of the best values in the Bourbon world, and while the expressions vary from year to year — sometimes widely — you can’t deny that they’re always quality whiskey from top to bottom.
This year’s Vintage 2003 Single Barrel was distilled in February 2003 and bottled in November 2012 (exactly one week ago, actually, as I write this), making it a solid 9 1/2 year old Bourbon.
For a couple of years now, these releases have been becoming bigger and hoarier, with more and more wood influence. 2003 marks a welcome respite from that trend and a return to elegance.
The nose is light and crisp, fresh and easy. On the body, it’s so easygoing. Clear citrus notes start you off, then a big vanilla and burnt sugar note comes on strong. The finish is smooth and lasting, gently warming. Not a lot of additional complexity: The orange is again crystal clear as the whiskey fades away, a nice little counterpoint to the creme brulee character in there too. It’s Evan Williams’ gentlest whiskey I’ve tried, and in five vintages of the Single Barrel I’ve covered now, it has no clear analogue.
That said, I’m a huge fan of it. The George T. Stagg set may find this year’s release a little “wimpy” for them. I’m calling it classy and sophisticated, and almost absurd in the value it packs into a bottle. If you don’t buy this whiskey, you’re stupid.
Barrel #1 reviewed. Releasing January 2013. 86.6 proof.