Happy New Year! While I took a few weeks off for the holidays and haven’t put out any new posts for a few weeks, I did drink my share of great bourbon (let’s call it homework). And I couldn’t think of a better way to start off 2018 than with a review of one of the best whiskeys of 2017!
Elijah Craig is one of the most recognizable names in the bourbon world, which is no surprise considering the vast variety of products bearing the name. The Small Batch, which I sometimes see referred to as the “entry level” Elijah Craig, is anything but an entry level bourbon. It’s easily one of the best bottles you’ll find around the $30 mark. But if you’re looking to take a step up from there, the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is hard to beat. Recently named Whiskey Advocate’s Top Whiskey of 2017, this 12 year, limited release bourbon is incredibly smooth and complex. I recently picked up a bottle from Batch B517 at a local bourbon lottery, where I also came home with a bottle of Knob Creek 25th Anniversary and a surprise bottle of Stagg Jr.
Heaven Hill started adding the batch number to the bottle in 2017 and it’s a pretty simple code to crack: The letter indicates which of the 3 annual batches it came from, the numbers are the month and year of release. So my bottle was the 2nd batch of the year, released in May 2017.
Right after I turned 21, I spent a long weekend on the bourbon trail visiting distilleries all over Kentucky and tasting everything I could find (and afford) to try. One of my favorite memories from that trip took place at Heaven Hill. As our tour group was walking through the rickhouse, we stumbled upon a few distillery employees sampling barrels for an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bottling. They pulled out a few extra Glencairn glasses, dipped the copper thief into a barrel and gave us each an ounce or so straight from the source. This particular barrel was just over 12 years old and in the neighborhood of 140 proof! Now, this was before my barrel proof loving days, so all I remember is my mouth being numb for about 15 minutes, but I’ll never forget it. While the bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof I now have on my shelf isn’t quite as “fresh” as what I drank that day, it’s about as close as you can get!
- ABV: 64.1%, 124.2 Proof
- Age: 12 Years
- Company / Distillery: Heaven Hill
- Mash Bill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye, 12% Barley
- Price: $60
Appearance: Auburn, Mahogany
Nose: Vanilla, Caramel, Brown Sugar, Clove, a bit of Rose Petal. Alcohol is quite present, unsurprisingly.
Taste: Lots of spice…Rye, Black Pepper, Cinnamon, Clove. Caramel and Vanilla sweetness, Dark Chocolate, maybe just a bit of Apple
Finish: Long, lots of caramel sweetness mixed with toasted oak. Pretty spicy all the way to the end, but not overpowering
Overall: Incredibly balanced and surprisingly smooth for a barrel proof bottle. I’ve always found Elijah Craig bottlings to be just a bit too woody for my taste, but this one is a very welcomed exception. While there’s still a good amount of oak, it’s balanced quite nicely with the rich caramel sweetness and the clove and cinnamon spices. It’s easy to see why this has been getting so much attention over the past year; it really is an incredible bourbon for $60. I can only hope that the 2018 releases will continue to deliver!