While I am not a big Heaven Hill fan, I do like their limited release stuff a lot, in particular Old Fitzgerald and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof releases. Of late, the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon has been winning, and not in the Charlie Sheen sense. It was voted best whiskey at the New Orleans Bourbon Festival, was Whisky Magazine’s whisky of the year, Double Gold at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge in San Francisco. With that, the price has risen from $40 to $70 per bottle, but I do think it was previously underpriced given the age, proof and quality. $70 is a decent price for something like this.
Compared to other releases, this batch is high proof – 131.4 proof to be exact. This has the potential to have a lot of heat on the palate, but often these whiskies tends to be remarkably easy drinking despite the high proof.
But what is not to like about this whiskey – uncut, non-chill filtered, and still 12 years old unlike the regular Elijah Craig that has dropped its age statement. Also, the batch number is pretty easy to decipher. The letter reflects the release batch in a particular year, with A being the first and this bottle being C, which reflects the third release of the year. 9 represents the month; this bottling was released in September. 18 is the year, 2018.
So, let’s see what we have, and, as always, I am praying the peanut funk of Beam family whiskies is either muted or not present.
The color is a lovely dark amber with slight reddish tones, as one would expect. On the swirl it is thinner than expected, but leaving an oily film with thin legs, but after sipping it the legs thicken. It seems the higher proof has made this release less syrupy than usual. But the nose is amazing – brown sugar, very brown pie crust, with a hint of Indonesian cloves. Pure elegance on the nose. On the palate is vanilla blended with wonderful oak; classic bourbon flavors followed by corn syrup sweetness reminiscent of pecan pie filling, followed by cherries and absolutely no peanut funk. Heavy baking spices on the finish which along with the rye makes this whiskey spicy hot, but not alcohol hot. The cloves from the nose reappear on the back of the finish. The clove notes really remind me of Dejoram clove cigarettes I used to smoke sometimes in college. Really very nice. Despite the lack of alcohol burn on the palate, and the bourbon does give you a nice Kentucky hug on the way down.
This bourbon is a very solid pour. It would do well with a cigar or a pipe, or as an after dinner drink. The best part is for my local bourbon friends, Hokus in Alexandria got 10 cases of 3 bottles each and Hudson sold me two without blinking an eye. So, for folks that want a good limited release bourbon on their bar that is actually gettable, get to Hokus and ask for one. They should have 26 bottles left by my count. But I doubt they will make it to the shelves.