Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The 12 Year Vertical

I'm in the middle of hosting a Vertical Tasting Event (VTE) using 12 years of Evan Williams Single Barrels starting with 1988 and going through 1999. These being single barrels, there's going to be variances from bottle to bottle for the same years. The more interesting aspect of this tasting is to determine the differences of the various mashbills throughout this timeframe. Let me explain.

On November 7, 1996, Heaven Hill experienced a devastating fire that destroyed the production plant and several warehouses containing 90,000 gallons of bourbon. In order to continue product releases, Heaven Hill was able to contract with Brown Forman and Jim Beam to distill bourbon to Heaven Hills standards. So, drinking through these 12 samples give's the tasters a variety of masbhills under the same label. Why is this important? Well, the recipe isn't just the grain and yeast, it's also all the equipment involved in the distillation process from the mash tuns to the column stills. As such, the flavor profile will be very different because multiple distilleries were involved in the distillation of this label.

All the Evan Williams Single Barrels are approximately 10 years old and 86.6 proof. When lining up these bottles side by side, the color variances in some bottles were quite remarkable; going from very light to moderately dark. The results aren't in yet as we've only tasted through 1988 and 1989. As we progress, I'll provide updates. Finally, I haven't heard of anyone doing a 12 year vertical tasting of the EWSB so this might be a first, but if you have, let me know, I'd be interested in hearing the results.


  1. Greg, this may be one of the more interesting experiments/tastings I've seen or heard of. I cannot wait to hear your thougths. The 1994-1996 are near and dear to my heart. Can't wait to see how it works out. Doing them blind or no? Not that it matters - just checking.

    Interesting stuff for us "dorks".

  2. Jason - this wasn't done blind. I just lined them up in 2oz samples starting with 1988. The first two were interesting not because they were great bourbon but because the 1988 was hot mid palate to the finish which surprised me due to its lower proof. The 1989 was the opposite with the entry very mild and the finish so uneventful, I thought maybe it got watered down somehow since it was so mild.

  3. Awesome experiment! I'm looking forward to the reporting of results!