let me respond to your two suggestions, and clarify my post a bit:
Firstly, blind tastings have their place, but not in most official reviews. Why not review the whiskey based upon how old it is? A blind tasting shows all of us our true preferences, or our preferences at a moment in time, but not necessarily what a 18 year old whiskey should taste like. The point of a reviewer is to be impartial, and review a whiskey in comparison to its peers and taking into consideration things like age, proof, barrel finishing, &c, so that the average consumer can say to themselves "Ah, Elijah Craig 18 year got a 94, so that's what an 18 year old whiskey should taste like!" blind tastings don't exactly allow that.
Secondly, no reviewer is truly impartial, however, I strongly believe that most of them do their best to be even when they are sent rare samples that the poor ol' consumer jus' can get. They're going to get rare bottles, we need to deal with it. The consumer's job is to figure out which reviewer's taste profile most fits their own.
Thirdly, the distilleries absolutely send honey bottles to reviewers. the job of the distillery is to sell stuff. The question is how often it happens, not if. The question is is it just a harmless sample here that may effect their opinion on another product later, or is it intentional manipulation? If they can convince Pacult, or Hansell, or Murray, that their particular hooch is the best, they can throw labels on it that say so. Distilleries use those labels, even if they're out-dated. Most distilleries are more honest with their customers now, than they were 10 years ago, I'm sure, but that's only because it is easier to find accurate information and with social networking the monster it has become, it's way too easy to get trapped in a lie or a mis-statement. Most consumers want to think that their Pappy Van winkles are still something extra-special (as opposed to just really good whiskey), that their OWA is still seven, and that baby saz is 6. Most people on straightbourbon can handle the truth, and WANT it. would be more willing to buy things from David Perkins if he explicitly stated on the label, this whiskey came from LDI. More likely to buy more Willett Reserve if it stated it was distilled at Heaven Hill, or at D.S.P. 354.
But let me condemn most of us here on straightborbon, as well. Sometimes we become so zealous in our quest for the truth, or in needing to prove that Pappy Van Winkle no longer contains S-W and is therefore inferior, that it drives distilleries to withold even more information, even more truth. People read straightbourbon, they respect our opinions. Pappy Van Winkle can lay a lot of credit for its success post mortem, for the legend that we helped create of S-W whiskeys here, and on all the rest of the social networking blogs and websites out there that talked about them.