Welcome to a new addition to the blog called the Top Tipple Review. With these reviews I plan on reviewing all of the amazing once-in-a-lifetime samples or bottles that I’ve managed to get my hands on throughout the years. Many of the whiskies that will be featured will either be limited edition, once-off interesting pours, very far out of the typical bourbon drinker’s budget, very hard to find, no longer be available outside of auctions or personal collections, or a combination of these. I’ll probably never get a chance to try any of these whiskies again, and I cannot think of any better way to enjoy them than to share my experiences of them with my fellow bourbon folk! Sláinte – Paddy
Part of the Heaven Hill family of bourbon brands, Elijah Craig is a fantastic bourbon with a backstory that dates as far back as possibly the very first barrel of what we now know as bourbon. Story has it that Craig, a baptist preacher and distiller, was the first to use charred barrels to age his distillate and so has been credited with discovering the process by which bourbon gains it’s flavours whilst ageing. My first experience of this well-priced Heaven Hill brand was from March 2016 when I picked up a bottle of Elijah Craig 12 (94 proof) for what I thought was the bargain price of €60 ( I later learned that this was definitely not a bargain price). The 12 turned out to be quite a flavourful bourbon that had more complex bourbon flavours than many others in the same price range (Irish prices), and so one that I always found myself coming back to.
Skip forward a year and one of the gents behind the British Bourbon Society hands me small brown bag with 6 sample bottles inside, one of which being the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (Batch 6 – 70.1% ABV/142 proof). Now at this point I had heard of the uncut and unfiltered barrel proof versions of this cult classic, and even had them sitting on my wish-list, but I always had other bottles to buy and so they sat patiently waiting. It was also around this time that news broke that the regular 94 proof 12 year old had gone non age-stated so the fact that the barrel proof versions were retaining this age statement further added to my list of reasons to try them. Today I’ll be taking a look at this Batch 6 release which has been nicknamed ‘hazmat‘ and has gotten quite a lot of praise from bourbon fans on both sides of the Atlantic.
Name: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (Batch #6)
Age: 12 years old
Proof: 140.2 proof (70.1% Alcohol by Volume)
Type: Straight Bourbon
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 13% Rye & 12% Malted Barley
Distillery: Heaven Hill
**This whiskey is a barrel proof beast so it was tasted both neat and with a few drops of water added to taste.
Appearance: Dark caramel
Neat – Concentrated and complex, with notes of dark forest fruits, baking spices and deep sweet vanilla. Leather, oak spice and herbal barrel notes flare at the end with a slight alcohol burn.
Water – Sweet vanilla and caramel now dominate, with a touch of leather, dark chocolate and herbal oak still remain in the back with less overall burn.
Neat – Next-level intense caramel and vanilla combine with hot baking spices, leather and a herbal oak spice that dances on the tongue and forces you to chew like you’ve never chewed before!
Water – A viscous buttery mouth-feel combines with floral vanilla, warm toffee, roasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate and herbal oak spice.
Neat – Hot and spicy with the same intense vanilla, caramel and herbal oak spice that coats the mouth and leaves a layer of flavour rich tannins and leaves you chewing for at least half an hour afterwards
Water – floral vanilla, spicy herbal oak, caramel and a lovely warming aftertaste of deep caramel, barrel spice and vanilla sweetness that again leaves you chewing long after the pour is gone.
This is an amazing whiskey, but also slightly dangerous for several reasons. First, it’s has delicious and complex flavours from start to finish both neat and with a few drops of water. Second, it’s so good your heart will shout MORE!, regardless of the fact that it rings in at a whopping 70.1% and your vision starts going blurry by pour 3 or 4. Third, this whiskey will lead you on a desperate mission to bunker as many bottles as possible, because when you find something that could rival even the best bottle from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, and at a fraction of the price, the drive to find as many as quick as possible is almost overwhelming.
Everything from the explosive flavours neat, to how well it opens up with a drop of water, sets this whiskey aside with some of the greatest bourbons I’ve ever had the pleasure to taste. In fact, as soon as I had polished off the sample, I immediately went on the hunt to track a bottle down, and my advice to you would be to do the same – you’ll thank me for it when you taste it, I promise!
Try or Buy?
Luckily bottles of this still appear regularly on the websites of several major whiskey retailers, however, those days are numbered. Therefore,my advice would be to try and get your hands on a bottle as soon as possible! If it’s in a bar try it, if it’s in on the shelf buy it.