Elijah Craig Reportedly Going NAS


Updated January 23, 2016

By Richard Thomas

Elijah Craigh 12 YO

Is Elijah Craig 12 really set to disappear?
(Credit: Richard Thomas)

The American whiskey blogosphere sparked ablaze late yesterday as word broke that Heaven Hill Distilleries would transition their popular Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Bourbon into a no age statement whiskey (NAS), with the new version entering the distribution pipeline as early as today.

Reportedly, the stock used to make Elijah Craig will be reduced from 12 years-plus to the 8 to 12 year range, while retaining the existing 94 proof level. The barrel dumps for this small batch won’t be so small anymore, rising from around 100 to roughly 200. According to the same reports, this move was made necessary because Elijah Craig could not both expand its sales and retain sufficient stock for future releases of Elijah Craig 18 and 23 Year Old bourbons. Future releases of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof will continue at the 12 year old mark and on an an annual basis.

At the time of publication, Heaven Hill had not officially confirmed any detail of the above report.

The Public Cries Foul!
Rumors that a move to Elijah Craig NAS was in the wind first began when the company changed the labeling of the bourbon last summer, moving the age statement to the back label and playing up “small batch” on the front label. From that time, Heaven Hill had consistently and vehemently denied that the labeling change was part of a plan to move Elijah Craig to NAS, or that they had any such plans in the first place.

Bourbon enthusiasts are already crying foul over this, and should the reports of an NAS switch prove fully accurate, they have every reason to feel misled. The time separating the labeling change from the NAS report is a matter of a mere two seasons, so any claims from Heaven Hill that they did not intend this all along are going to seem specious indeed. In terms of mendacity, it would eclipse anything Templeton Rye ever did. After all, the Iowa bottlers had always admitted to journalists they were sourcing their whiskey, despite their misleading marketing.

Once Again, This Isn’t A Shortage Story
The thing that stands out most to me about the Elijah Craig NAS report is the open admission in it that Heaven Hill has resorted to this course of action because of their sales ambitions. They aren’t switching Elijah Craig to NAS because of demand today or even to demand in the near future, but to meet their future sales goals. Also, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof will go on untouched, becoming, in essence, a pricier continuation of Elijah Craig 12 Year Old.

The more simplistic pundits were already crying “shortage!” when rumors started flying months ago, but in reality this is another example of a strategy I call “robbing Peter in hopes that Paul pays you more later.” Some of the world’s whiskey companies, like William Grant & Sons, make a point of keeping their sales and marketing goals in line with their ability to meet it based upon their current stock and the products their customers have come to expect. Others want to aggressively expand sales and market share, and to do that they must also expand their volume somehow. This appears to be what Heaven Hill is doing.

Of course, it could be that this whole thing will blow over in a four or five months time, and Elijah Craig 12 Year Old will be back. Only two and a half years ago, Maker’s Mark tried to water down their bourbon only to be forced to back off in the face of a popular backlash. Some croaked that the whole business was a marketing stunt, and while I’m dismissive of such talk in the case of Maker’s, we may yet discover that this Elijah Craig NAS affair is not as settled as it seems.

Update: The basic details of the reports were confirmed by Heaven Hill. Elijah Craig is moving from 12 Year Old to an NAS, officially renamed “Elijah Craig Small Batch,” based on a range of 8 to 12 year old stock (so technically it will become Elijah Craig 8 Year Old).

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  1. If this is true, I will never buy a Heaven Hill whiskey again. They flat out lied to us!

  2. This is very disappointing, if it is true. I noticed the label change a few months ago and wondered what was up. I may have to find a new favorite. This lacks integrity.

  3. No, for God’s sake, nooooo!

  4. Heaven Hill to bourbon drinkers: DROP DEAD!

  5. The thing is I would have been OK with an Elijah Craig NAS, so long as it was still a good whiskey with the price. I would have missed Craig 12, but I would have understood. It’s the dishonesty that kills me. I saw the rumors too, and when Heaven Hill denied them I thought “OK, if they are going to do that, it will be at least a year or two before they do.” If you make a firm public statement that you aren’t doing something, it is binding for a reasonable length of time, and if you go back on it you don’t do it by surprise.

    Shame on Heaven Hill.

  6. The disgusting thing is how so many whiskey writers are eager to sweep the dishonesty under the rug. It’s just you and Sku making a point of it.

  7. I have to say that I for one am not turning my back on Heaven Hill. They produce some of the finest products at an affordable price. I will continue to judge the product by what is in the bottle and what I paid for it. Besides we are talking about Batch whiskey after all.

    I think an increase in volume due to demand is the cause of cracking earlier barrels. As a result a label change. Let us taste the difference and judge Heaven Hill then.

    • Tweaks: There are two different issues here. One is the bourbon, and you are right. It should be judged as a bourbon, and just that.

      The other issue is that they could have just released it without the label switch 7 or 8 months ago and the denials. It smacks of trying to pull a fast one. If that kind of thing really didn’t matter, then it wouldn’t matter for Templeton Rye, would it?

  8. Sam P. – Both showed their true color. Amarello.

  9. Me again! And I’m even more disgusted than before.

    The whitewash being used now is “we all knew this was coming, and people would be angry anyway.”

    No! I would be upset anyway. Had Heaven Hill played straight with us, I would be disappointed and upset. Instead, I’m pissed!

    I discover some anonymous jerk sideswiped my car, so I have to file a damage claim. I know they will raise my rates. I know it’s coming, but that doesn’t make me any less angry about it, or the act any less unfair and possibly corrupt.

  10. The funny thing is its these forums are driving the bourbon madness. Then the distillers change the age or proof and you bitch at them. I get the anger about lying, but the underlying issue is the demand and supply. Make your forums membership only. Then mr. Jack and coke joe shmoe might not buy the distillers into shortages when he reads that such and such bourbon tastes like cherrys, carmel etc.

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