Elijah Craig Barrel Proof
Batch A117 (127°) – $70
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye & 12% Malted Barley
Elijah Craig is a flagship brand for Heaven Hill Distilleries, named after the Reverend Elijah Craig, who is oft, though likely erroneously, credited with being the first person to put a corn distillate into new charred oak barrels. The barrel proof iteration of Elijah Craig has long been a sought after and appreciated offering, even more so after the entry level small batch dropped the 12-year age statement. For those not aware, Elijah Craig Small Batch dropped its age statement shortly before the new bottle design. They first moved it to the back label, and then left it off completely. This is largely due to the increased demand and lack of aged supply, which is understandable as this “bourbon boom” caught pretty much everyone, from consumers to experts, completely off guard. Heaven Hill has stated that the current offerings of Elijah Craig Small Batch are between 8 and 12 years old, but there is no way to know how much is 12 versus 8, or if all of it falls within that range. Luckily for us, the barrel proof Elijah Craig has maintained its 12-year age statement, guaranteeing every drop in the bottle is no younger than stated, and may very well have some older bourbon blended in.
The bottle I’m sitting down with today is the first barrel proof release since they switched the bottle design. Coming in at 63.5% alcohol by volume, it was the lowest proof batch at the time of release (they’ve since come out with a 62.1% batch). Not that you could tell, this bottling is hot and lets you know it.
A bit tight and closed off, the nose comes off as “oaky” with wood tannin, char, and cinnamon leading the way. Some swirling opens it up, releasing aromas of caramel, vanilla, but surprisingly little else. The higher alcohol content is notably present, the heat pushes through all the pleasant notes and is a bit unpleasant honestly. Past Elijah Craig barrel proofs have not come off as such, the alcohol is typically kept in check by richer aromas.
The oak presence follows through on the palate, with a dominate drying sensation right in the foreground. Caramel is the primary flavor, followed by cinnamon, which amplifies the dryness. Sweet corn and red fruit round out the flavors, which are once again pushed through by the heat of the alcohol.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, in addition to be age stated, is also non-chill filtered. Typically, this gives whiskey a richer, fuller mouthfeel; almost an oily viscosity. This round mouthfeel is missing in batch A117, instead it is hot and thin. The alcohol and oak are not in balance, unlike previous batches which have been more poised and well rounded. While not a horrible pour, it doesn’t live up to its predecessors. I give this a 2.5/5 overall. Luckily the successor, which has since been released, is more in line with the quality Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is known for.
I want to leave you all with one last note. This is my first negative review, and I didn’t take it lightly. I have had this bottle for a few months now, and have revisited it multiple times, I’m now a little over halfway through the bottle. I don’t want to baselessly bash a product, and did my due diligence to ensure I did not do this here, in repeatedly tasting this bottle, as well as one other to assure it wasn’t an off bottle.
* All reviews are subjective and purely express my own opinion. Ratings are independent of one another, just because bottle A has 4/5 doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better than bottle B with 3.5/5. Lastly, my ratings are not quantifiable, I am not assigning aroma a certain number of points and mouthfeel another, it’s just my overall thoughts summed up in a number. *