March 2, 2006

Evan Williams Single Barrel - Vintage 1996 Review

Evan Williams Single Barrel 1996
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
86.6 Proof (43.3% ABV)
Barreled on: 5/21/96
Barrel #144
Bottled on: 2/06/06
Typical Price: Around $25 for 750ml

Evan Williams Single Barrel 1996We were big fans of 1996. We graduated from college, The Onion moved to the Infernets, and Tupac Shakur faked his death. Another good thing that happened that year was that Evan Williams took a bunch of good Bourbon and put it into some nice oak barrels, and set them aside for a few years. Whereas most Bourbons are mixed from among various barrels, this stuff is all bottled from the same one.

What does that mean? Not much to your average drinker maybe, but it is pretty damn cool to look at the barrel number and vintage of your Bourbon as you sip it. The interesting thing is you won't necessarily get the same barrel or bottling date we did, so every bottle is more or less unique. How you doin', Barrel 144?

The Color: Brown. Seriously? Seriously.
It's a nice, clear and bright brownish color.

The Nose: What Is That Smell?
As we took our first whiff, we couldn't place it. We knew this stuff had been sitting in oak barrels for the last ten or so years. We could pick up on some corn undertones. It was pretty light and not too sharp on the nose, and for some reason it made us think of Sherry. But it didn't really hit us what it reminded us of until we tasted it.

The Flavors: Calling Smokey The Bear
Smoky all the way. We could taste the charred oak from the barrel along with the corn and rye - it was like corn and rye were fist fighting in a forest fire. In the middle there was some astringency, though it never pinched. But the weirdest thing was...we knew this was Bourbon, but we swear on all that was holy, the smokiness at the back end reminded us of our favorite Scotch, Lagavulin. Obviously there's no peat here, but the similarity was impressive.

The Recipes: Not Applicable
You don't mix single malt Scotch, and you don't mix with this. Seriously, this is a sipper - we didn't even put it on the rocks.

The Verdict: Bourbon for Scotch Lovers
This one took a few drinks to grow on us, but once it did we were completely converted. It's complex and challenging, and we really like the idea of it growing up in one barrel. Plus, the vintage and hand-written dates on the label made us feel like we were in a secret club, sipping special whiskey.

The Site: We found some notes about previous Single Barrel vintages, though it hasn't been updated for the 1996, at

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Posted by Jake Jamieson at March 2, 2006 7:40 AM


Recent Comments

I just bought a bottle of this Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 1998. Before today, the most I'd had of Kentucky Bourbon were just the ones commonly available in liquor stores worldwide.

I really like how it says in handwritten script on the label: barreled on 9-15-98, bottled on 2-4-08.

While I found the initial whiff strong the first sip was—incredibly smooth, smoky and bold but smooth!

I fancy myself a single malt Scotch lover (was about to get an Orkney when this caught my eye) and now I'm glad I didn't—or I would've missed out on the great, new experience that is single barrel bourbon.

Posted by: Alistair Israel at September 11, 2008 5:32 PM

I have come across an extensive estate of 1918-1952 liquors of all kinds from Bourbons, Cognac, Whisky. about 126 bottles. Most are unopened with seals and ALL are name brand items.
I don't drink but I do need money and have letter of appraisal but no idea who would purchse these pre-WWII collectibles?
Where would one sell them?

Posted by: A T Solomon at December 31, 2007 5:50 AM

Just bought a bottle of the Evan Williams Single Barrel. Mine was the 1997 vintage. I am still evaluating it after one taste. It is very smooth and quite interesting. Not as potent as my present favorites, Knob Creek or Wild Turkey Rare Breed, but very nice. The price was incredible for a 10 year old bourbon. I paid $24 for the bottle. Definitely worth a try.

Posted by: Robert Perlson at July 1, 2007 9:45 PM
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