Aside from the cooler weather and vivid colors, one thing I love about fall is cracking open a new bottle of cask strength whisk(e)y to enjoy – Today I’m continuing on with another heavy hitting American dram, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.
The Elijah Craig brand hails from Heaven Hill Distilleries, makers of other fine brands such as Larceny, Evan Williams, Rittenhouse, Parker’s Heritage and several others. This particular whisky is a cask strength version of the much popular Elijah Craig 12-year-old. You’ll have to look on the back of the label to find the 12-year-old age statement for the barrel proof version.
First introduced in 1986, Elijah Craig 12-year-old was one of the first whiskies to use the term “small batch.” It’s made from a vatting of approximately 70 barrels per batch and gets its name from the Rev. Elijah Craig, the man who is said to have discovered the method of making true Kentucky Bourbon when he stored his wares in barrels that had been charred in a fire, although I can’t say this story holds much water.
The Barrel Proof version is a limited release and therefore comes from a much smaller batch than the standard 12-year-old. That also makes it a lot tougher to get a hold of. As of writing this post there have been three batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof released to the market. The first came in at 67.1% ABV (132.4 proof), this batch clocks in at a whopping 68.5% ABV (137 proof) and the third batch, which was just very recently released, was bottled at 66.6% (133.2 proof).
I’ve been really excited to dive into this whisky ever since I picked up a bottle a few weeks ago. I’m a fan of the standard Elijah Craig 12-year-old, which is bottled at 47% ABV (94 proof). It’s really nice Bourbon, especially for the price. The last bottle I picked up ran me about $21, although it’s usually priced around $25. When I saw a cask strength version for $40, I just had to have it.
Other Elijah Craig offerings include the 18-year-old, the 20-year-old and the 21-year-old. I’ve tasted the 18 and 20, and although enjoyable, I’m a bigger fan of the 12-year-old, which works for me because the price gap between the 12 and older expressions is quite large. The older expressions are single barrel bottlings and all of them come from the same low-rye mashbill, which is the same used for the Evan Williams brand. Unlike the older expressions, Barrel Proof is bottled in the classic EC 12 bottle with the classic oversized EC cork stopper.
Price: Approx $40/750ml
ABV: 68.5% – Cask Strength / Non Chill-Filtered
Color: Deep Mahogany. Quite dark and rich in appearance, more so than most heavily sherried whiskies I know. I usually don’t get hung up on color, but this one’s impressive.
Nose: The nose starts off with hard candy sweetness, cinnamon sugar and oak spices. This followed up with hints of furniture polish, vanilla oil, pine, cherry cough syrup and what seems like toasted marshmallow. The nose really hides the proof.
Palate: The heat comes in full force right on the approach with a slight bitter oak sweetness, dried black cherries, cocoa powder, cinnamon candy, a little cough syrup and pine again, vanilla and sweetened herbal tea. It has a thick and coating mouthfeel that leaves a lot to be enjoyed.
w/ Water: The nose hasn’t changed all that much, but there is a bit more spice now – Cinnamon, allspice, vanilla and pepper, which are mingled very nicely with the sweetness. A little water smoothes it out nicely but it still has that rich, full mouthfeel. Like the nose, the palate has stayed straight as an arrow; another dram that takes water quite well. The bitterness still stands out a bit from the rest, but it’s still quite enjoyable.
Finish: Moderate to long with dark cherry and toffee sweetness and wood spice.
There’s not much to say about this whisky other than it’s a pretty damn good pour, and at $40 a bottle it’s also a huge bang for the buck. As previously noted, there is a lingering bitterness that stands out just a bit, but the sweetness and spice help keep it in check. I sampled batch 1, which I felt was a bit more balanced. Look forward to trying batch 3.