Interesting , but somewhat , shall we say simpler, (not to use the dirty word-light) expression of an Elijah Craig bourbon. Buy to compare to their other expressions and maybe use to break the newbies in.
Notes: Heaven Hill is a distillery with a relatively long history with quite a few bourbons in its portfolio, a number of them dating back to the beginning of the company, but a number of exciting new bourbons and special editions of their older lines are generating a lot of interest (and new respect) in the bourbon community. Some of the most notable of the new series are the limited editions of the Parker Heritage Series (reviews of Number 7, Number 8, and Number 9 ) the new Larceny Bourbon (an extension/expression from the Old Fitzgerald line), and The Bernheim Wheat Whisky
A much longer list and links for other Heaven Hill whiskeys are under our “other” comment section as it is a rather long and complicated list….
This is particular bottle is a new line extension has more to do with the custom char level that was created just for this whiskey than anything else such as age or proof… All bourbons per regulation and tradition, are placed in charred new oak barrels. A lot of them are char #3 level or even char #4 ( also known as alligator char) as that imparts a lot of char and all the attendant wood characteristics to a bourbon. This is a notable departure from that in 2 ways, first that it is only #1 level char, and second that it is a specific, custom, char within that range that was developed by Heaven Hill working with their barrel makers.
The #1 level char ( a flash char of staves air-dried for 18 months prior) is interesting because it is just past what most Cognac and Armagnac distillers use in their barrels ( which also has different levels but goes from an almost slightly warmed barrel stave toasting to aslightly dark toasting – much more subtle than American levels of char with less color and wood interaction ( never mind the French brandies can also be switched to other barrels over time – something not allowed with bourbon, that must stay in its one and only barrel till bottling). The bourbon also uses the traditional Elijah Craig mashbill of 78% corn, 12 % malted barley, and 10% rye, so the major difference is the char level.
Appearance: Clear copper/patinated bronze-colored showing a nice aging profile. Maybe a touch lighter than the regular production, but most will not notice unless you are doing a side to side with white paper. On swirling, it leaves a thin to medium coating on the glass and rapidly forms an edge line that crenelates and recedes rather than forming legs.
First Impression: Caramel, vanilla, saddle soap, Vietnamese cinnamon, leather, oak, and alcohol blending relatively well if more forward, it seems the trend is toward a bit lighter altogether than some of the previous incarnations. However, this is a somewhat paradoxical effect in that lighter char results in less wood/char influence and a somewhat less mellowed profile as the wood is not carmelized nearly as much.
Taste: Light and tight are my first impressions. The usual honeyed entry is not there, this is a much leaner and drier beast. The Elijah Craig does match the nose/bouquet, with caramel and vanilla, with the char, oak, and leather but much more muted – I guess you could say cleaner and more aesthetic. If you want to appreciate the bouquet and taste add some water to open it up a bit (one of the things I like about slightly proof spirits is you can proof it or mix it to your taste/requirements- too many whiskeys are already too watered down before you even get them these days. With the addition of a little water the bourbon opens its bouquet nicely and becomes a touch sweeter and less oily with the spice becoming more pronounced in the taste and a sweeter finish.
Drinks: Speaking of which… Recommend for mixing. Makes a for a leaner bourbon component in most of our favorite classic bourbon cocktails.
Bottle: Elongated Horseshoe-shaped flask type bottle somewhat taller and leaner looking than the older versions of Elijah Craig
Other: Their other bourbons include of course the Heaven Hill series, the Elijah Craig 12 ( IMHO one of the perennial best buys in a bourbon), and the Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old. Some other lines of bourbons they produce are the Evan Williams line and the Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage series they have released every year ( 2000 Vintage, 2002 Vintage, 2003 Vintage, 2004 Vintage, and the New Make Series of unaged distillate (Rye and Corn),
The Barrel Proof Series, all of which are 12-Year-old bourbons selected as outstanding single barrels and bottled at barrel proof. This one being the 136.6 Proof Version released early 2020. The earlier versions we reviewed being the other the Barrel Proof Versions at 124.2 released in January of 2017, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 127 Proof Lot B517 in May of 2017, another further release Batch No. C917 in September of 2017. The other Elijah Craig Barrel Proof we reviewed was the B 517 at 124.2 proof, The 131 proof C917,
The Batch letter is code for which release it is for the year (A, B, C, D are batches 1,2,3,4 for the year, First digit is the month (1-January, 5 – May, 9- September), second two numbers denote the year ( in this case 2020).
An explanation of Barrel Proof, please look in our classification section. The Barrel Proof series is the latest and follows on from other previous premium releases of a 20-Year-Old and of the 21-Year-Old Version, 23 Year Old Elijah Craig versions. This barrel proof series has between 3 and 4 releases a year at different proofs due to the variations of the batches. The Elijah Craig Barrel Proof series will also vary in color and taste within a certain (company and brand profile) degree so each one will be different up to that point. Barrels falling outside that profile will probably end up in larger blends, or in extreme cases, sold off to be used somewhere else under a different name.
Final Thoughts: Another Elijah Craig release to add and compare to in your collection although not as complex as some of the past releases IMHO. If it was a bit more subtle and complex it would have scored higher, but still worthy of buying if it can be found at or around the MSRP – this will probably a heavily sought after bottle in the grey market bottle. Get it and enjoy it while you can but don’t break the piggy bank for it.
The main distillery website, it also has their plethora of other brands they either make of import also. A fairly informative site by industry standards, it does not have as much depth of information on their American Whiskies as the site below does – but offers a great overview of everything they are involved in.
Fast loading and easy to navigate. This one of the most comprehensive bourbon ( or any other spirit for that matter) website I have come across – and that is saying a lot! Extensive information and good pictures of how bourbon is made, the distillery, the bourbon heritage with reviews and ratings by different people and organizations of the different vintage years. Also the most extensive store of bourbon related gear and accessories in the industry.
The more specific webpage for their higher-end America Whiskey portfolio with a good amount of information, photos, and recipes. If you become a member of the Bardstown Whiskey Society ( recommended) you unlock a lot more information and benefits from joining.