From what I've gathered, this product is very erratic with sour-tasting duds a persistent possibility. I took a chance a few months ago on a Binny's bottle barreled 5/15/92, and while it took me some time to warm up to the profile, by the time the bottle was empty, I had developed a real affinity and taste for the stuff.
I have seen a myriad of barrels in various Binny's and snatched up all the 5/15/92 bottles I've seen (not all for me). I ordered a TPS bottling, and it happens to have the same barreling date. I have yet to open it to compare. What I see now on the shelves are Binny's barrel dates ranging from Jan to April of 1990, as well as standard bottles with similar dates on them. It would seem that the bottles barreled in 1990 would be 20+ years old, but I haven't tasted them to see how they measure up to the 5/15/92 that I know is great.
I was browsing a shelf yesterday, looking at barrel dates, and when I got to the check-out, a manager struck up a conversation with me regarding my date browsing. He remarked that somebody at the distillery had told him to look for barrels with dates in the warmer months - that when the whiskey is barreled in warm weather, there is more evaporation and the flavors are more bright and concentrated than whiskey barreled only months earlier in colder weather.
Can this be true? I was more concentrated on the year for vintage identification, but I wanted to run this idea by you folks to see what kind of insights you might have. Can barreled-month really make a big difference in a whiskey that spends 18 years in barrel? The bottle I found yesterday has a Binny's barrel date of Feb '92, and despite my skepticism, when I first tasted the bottle last night, it came off as slightly duller in comparison to my previous bottle.
The store employee also mentioned this was a factor for the 12-year old. I have yet to taste the EC12, having been scared away by my impression of its extremely erratic profile. Of course, the EC12 is not single barrel, but I'd be interested in learning a way to pick up a good bottle beyond random guesswork.