Just as the Kentucky Derby is a race for 3-year-olds, Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage (EWSBV) is a race to be the best 9-year-old rye-recipe bourbon in Heaven Hill's warehouses.
After 14 years, the series is also like an old friend. It's not always the same but it's not very different either. The familiarity is always welcome. While the basic profile stays the same there is enough variation from year to year so that you look forward to each new release. It's an annual harvest of Heaven Hill's best. Because of that it is much more true to the traditional meaning of 'vintage' than most other annual whiskey releases.
Heaven Hill and thus EWSBV spent several years in the wilderness after the distillery in Bardstown was destroyed by fire. That history is reflected in the 1997 to 2000 vintages. If some of those years were a bit iffy, the series is back on track now.
The new EWSBV 2001 represents Heaven Hill settling down at its new distillery in Louisville, making exactly the whiskey they want to make. Its principal charm is exquisite balance. It has pipe tobacco on the nose, with tannin, deep char and candy corn on the palate.
Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2001 won't knock you on your ass. It's more like a comfortable visit with an old friend. Nothing spectacular and nothing new, but deeply enjoyable nonetheless.