IMHO, a free bottle will always taste better than a bought bottle from the same barrel. There's a psychological barrier that is breached by a gift.
When it comes to EW1B, I doubt a huge number of barrels have been vetted when the 1st barrel is released. Perhaps 100 out of the 1000+ for the vintage. So, a good barrel may have been selected, but it's very unlikely to be the best.