By Father John Rayls
It shouldn’t take long for you to figure out that I love Elijah Craig, and I think the 12 Year Old is the very best bang for the buck, setting you back for under or around 30 bucks regular bottle. Great taste, higher proof and great value make the standard “EC12” a winning combination. As a result of being such a long term Elijah Craig bourbon fan, I couldn’t wait to try Heaven Hill’s 9th edition of the Barrel Proof Elijah Craig. Like it’s sibling, this whiskey is also aged for 12 years, but packs a much bigger punch, weighing in at 135.6 proof.
The bottle is impressive. Like EC12, it is very sturdy and thick, with the name cast in cursive on raised letters on the bottle, which has an over-sized cork stopper, and looks serious all on its own just for sitting on the shelf. Of course, the name “Elijah Craig”, conjures up all kinds of images of frontier life and frontier whiskey. Reality is much more refined. This is a very good whiskey that is very drinkable on its own, in spite of its 67.8% abv.
This is a very dark looking bourbon, both in the glass and in the bottle. It is in fact one of the darkest bourbons I have ever seen. The appearance seems to promise a very in-depth whiskey journey, both dark and inviting. In the glass, the legs are long, but very thin.
At 135.6 proof, you would expect some alcohol burn on the nose, and indeed, you get it. It’s not overpowering, however, but still noticeable. You will also notice caramel, oak and an underlying essence of cherry and orange. If you linger at this point, the burn may begin to take over. The aromas are very present and are delicious, but even the aromas can be hot.
The depth and power of the core bourbon flavor that floods the mouth are hard to express. The liquid has a much thicker feel than its somewhat thin legs might indicate. The flavor is powerful, a full punch in the face, and I’m not talking about the 135.6 proof alcohol kick. It begins right at the front of the mouth, as the bourbon coats the tongue. It’s not subtle and it certainly isn’t shy. It immediately moves to the back of the mouth producing wave after wave after wave of flavor working the entirety of the mouth.
To say the 2015 Elijah Craig Barrel Proof has “a long finish” does not do it justice. It is a powerful force in its own right, and demands recognition.
I am not suggesting the bourbon is unruly, however, as it remains very drinkable and you can do it neat, with water, or even some ice if you prefer. This would be fantastic as a mixer, if you wanted a bourbon-forward mixed drink. You can expect vanilla, caramel, oak, toffee and some toasted brown sugar. As it begins to fade, some spiciness begins to kick in with some pepper and cinnamon rounding out the taste experience. This is a supremely enjoyable whiskey.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, many of your favorite bourbons have gone up in price, while your less than favorite ones have probably dropped in price. The demand for moderately priced and delicious bourbons has shot through the roof, and the prices have followed the demand. The recommended price for this year’s Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is 50 bucks, and good luck with that. I paid $56 and was thankful to get it.
Yet this is one of those whiskeys that you need to pursue. Don’t miss out on this one, because you know the saying: if you snooze, you lose.