Elijah Craig – Barrel Proof

After finishing my course from the Stave and Thieve Society and becoming a Certified Bourbon Steward, I thought it high time for a Bourbon review. And since it’s Whisky Wednesday, that means browsing through my collection of samples. For today I picked out a sample I’ve been looking forward to for some time, the Elijah Craig Barrel Proof! The regular Elijah Craig Small Batch is one of my favourite daily sippers, and thus I’m eager to find out how this Barrel Proof offerings stands up to it!

Tasting Notes: Elijah Craig – Barrel Proof
Stats:

ABV: 68,3% (136,6 proof)

Age: 12 years old

Batch: A120

Distillery: Heaven Hill

Owned by: Heaven Hill Distilleries

Category: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Chill-Filtered: No

Natural Colour: Yes (It’s never allowed to add colouring to Bourbon)

Setting:

I had a lovely day babysitting my nieces, but after a long day of what seems an infinite amount of energy to deal with… I need a drink, haha. Unfortunately, the babysitting did mean no long walk for me this Wednesday, so instead I’m tasting this Elijah Craig Barrel Proof at night, after relaxing and playing guitar for a while. Once the music charged me up a bit, I felt rejuvenated and I’m eager to start my review. So, I poured this dram neat into a Glencairn and started writing.

Nose:

The high ABV is immediately apparent when you bring the glass to your face, warning you to approach it slowly. And slowly I approached it indeed, or otherwise my senses would have been dulled for the rest of the experience. Even though the alcohol vapours are strong, they are not offensive in any sort of way. In fact, it’s pleasant notes of vanilla, molasses and cherry that dominate the nose of this dram. Like an ever so delicious cherry-topped piece of pudding. There’s some honey and caramel-fudge here as well, giving this nose a sweet sensation that remarkably enough never becomes overwhelming. With so many sweet elements I find that quite impressive.

I decided to add a fair bit of water to this dram, to see how it holds up with a lower ABV. Yet despite a gulp of water, the ABV is still what hits me first on the nose. And the sweet flavours seem to be dulled a bit if anything. The one new thing I find is paint-thinner though… it’s safe to conclude that I preferred the nose at barrel proof.

Palate:

That same high ABV is something you really need to get adjusted to after taking your first sip. These Barrel Proof expressions from Elijah Craig come in different batches, and sometimes they sit right around the 61% ABV mark, but the one I’m tasting is exceptionally high at 68,3%, so that is something to keep in mind. Once that initial burn wears of though, I’m welcomed by thick molasses, dried fruit, dark chocolate, Maraschino cherries an a mildly salted liquorice. Wonderfully complex, despite that punch of alchohol. Wonderfully rich and strikingly exuberant. With a thick and syrupy mouthfeel that leaves you begging for more.

On the palate the added water seems to have had a better effect than it did on the nose. The liquorice note gets turned up a notch and I’m finding more herbal notes (like nutmeg and cloves) as well. And it all gets covered in a delicious layer of extra dark chocolate, giving a bitterness to this dram that does wonders for its complexity.

Finish:

The finish seems to stick around for ages. I had to wait for a long, long time before adding water. As the flavours still lay so heavy on my tongue that I would barely be able to pick anything new up at all. I keep getting the feeling as if I never swallowed it at all, and I’m still swirling it around my mouth after all this time. Some new flavours develop in the finish as well, with especially a citrus note sticking out as a newfound taste here. Orange peel and lemon, combined with brown sugar, make for a delicious home-made lemonade sense of taste. With a little bit of the Maraschino cherry note lingering as well.

The finish does lose some strength after adding water. It still sticks around for quite some time, but it seems to dull the whole experience somewhat. Considering the fact that it doesn’t seem to add any new flavours, tasting it at barrel proof takes my preference here as well.

Verdict:

This is quite the exceptional bourbon and it’s an absolute joy of a dram to experiment with by adding drops of water. It truly does have a profound effect on the dram, though not always in the best sense. I preferred the palate when it was a bit diluted, but the nose and finish of this dram were astonishing at barrel proof. And thus, my verdict is that it’s best enjoyed at the strength it was bottled at. That does mean that this bourbon is one for the high ABV lovers, it might proof quite a challenging dram for newcomers to the category for example. Still, for all the cask strength lovers out there this is an absolute gem of a bourbon. And for roughly a 100 euro here in the Netherlands, it’s well worth its price tag.

Rating:

88/100

Value:

B

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