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Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Barrel Proof

Average score from 23 reviews and 29 ratings 90

Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Barrel Proof

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Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Barrel Proof

This bottle I purchased privately from a friend, then opened it when I conducted a professional tasting earlier in the fall. This batch was released in September 2017, directly following B517.

The colour is a dark copper, a hair darker than B517. On the nose it's a bit floral with rosewater, a slight touch of mint, butterscotch and wildflower honey. Brazil nut. Leathery and extremely earthy. Vanilla pods. Marzipan. Water somehow makes it a bit mustier. Powerful yet elegant.

On the palate, quite hot and mouthdrying with tobacco, lots of cinnamon and clove. Fruity with blackberry and dark cherry. Lots of vanilla too. The spice does not dominate - here it's all about the fruit and oak. Water brings an interesting sourdough element. Stunning.

The finish is all oak and cloves, but with a slight balsamic note. Incredible stuff, to be sure, but how does it compare to the previous batch? C is more floral on the nose; a bit hotter and also fruitier on the palate; but B is oakier on the finish. Is one better than the other? Maybe B by a millimetre but who cares? If you're interested, Jim Murray scores C917 a 95.


I recently picked this one up at the LCBO / Waddington's auction in November 2021. Like every Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, it is twelve years old; this one is Batch B517, which means it's the 2nd batch of that year, released in May 2017. I've tasted this before, at a bar in Chicago; I've also tasted two other batches, both excellent.

The colour is a dark copper. Stunning on the nose with old wet leather, cloves, black cherry and cinnamon. Pungent dried herbs such as parsley and oregano. Very dark chocolate. Over-dry cigar. Espresso. Orange peel. Toasted walnut. A bit minty with water. Extremely robust.

Hot on the palate with cinnamon, vanilla pods, more black cherry and some mint. Very chewy. Mint leaves. A bit of blood orange. Toasted almond. Cocoa powder. Really comes alive with water, dialling up the spice and adding more charred oak and cayenne. Incredibly strong and muscular, but with panache.

The extremely long finish is mouthdrying with chili heat, black pepper, liquorice all-sorts and cherry. This about as good as bourbon gets - leather, fruit, lots of oak and massive spice. Rated #1 whisky of 2017 by Whisky Advocate! Let's see how it stacks up next to the very next batch release...

I agree that this one is a powerful batch. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to taste it. It is an example of the heights a good bourbon can reach.

Love this stuff. And thankfully it isn't something you have to win a lottery or stand in line all night to get.


I picked this one up on a trip through the US in July. It's twelve years old (like all the Elijah Craig BP) and was released in May 2019.

The colour is a very dark amber. On the nose I first get a burst of very dark chocolate with oak, black cherry, pencil shavings and burnt caramel. Eucalyptus is there too, but it's more subtle than I got on the Rock Town I just wrote up. Some black liquorice too. Water softens things up, but it's not really necessary. Fruity, oaky and a bit herbal - nice balance.

Very chewy on the palate with even more burnt caramel, big fat dark cherry and light molasses. It's a bruiser with big oak and unyielding tannins, but the complexity is never lost. Lots of berry flavours - cherry, blackberry and gooseberry. Thankfully the eucalyptus is far in the background. Water adds some more spices: paprika, chili, allspice. Stunning.

The deep long finish is spicy with tobacco, leather, cinnamon, clove and bovril. This is what you want in a great bourbon - power with subtlety and balance. Jim Murray gives this a 90.5, and Jeffrey Lindenmuth gives it a 93.


This is my third bottle of ECBP and I've been a fan so far. The 2 batches I reviewed last year were probably 2 of the best 3 bourbons I've had (only topped by George T Stagg). Let's see how A519 stacks up.

This batch is a little down on proof at 61.1% but we're still talking high octane stuff. Bottle has been opened about a month and is 90% full. Neat in a glencairn.

Nose: There is just so much going on here. Let's start with the cake icing (frosting for some of you). Chocolate and vanilla icing on top of yellow cake is the primary player here. Followed by red apple. Then the nuts. Acorns, pecans and walnuts. This is followed by just a hint of pine sap and bbq pork This packs flavour without packing too much heat. This is noticably lower proof than the other 2 batches but still has plenty of flavour.

Palate: This is where I can tell this is a high proof whiskey. After you get accustomed to the proof the flavours start flowing down. That chocolate is really the king of this castle. Definately a big dose of chocolate, mocha and nuts. A bit bready too, like whole wheat sliced bread with a chocolate and nutty spread. Rich, sweet and big.

Finish: More nutty than chocolaty on the finish but both elements are still there.

Overall: This is a big, sweet, rich whiskey and continues the deliciousness of the previous offerings. If I had to rank all 3 that I own, I would put this above B518 but below C918(which is still arguably the best American whiskey I've had). I can't wait to try more releases.

@casualtorture Almost sounds like something from a bakery, not a distillery. Sounds mighty tasty though. yum

Batch number should be listed as B519as it is the second batch. It followed A119 which has a proof of 135.2.


Part two of my H2H with Elijah Craig Barrel Proof.

This is batch B, and I am muling it for a friend. I am having this side by side with my bottle from batch C.

This is a fresh bottle unlike batch C which I know is not preferable but this glass has been sitting for well over one hour now, so hopefully you will forgive me. Having 2 different batches together at the same time is hard enough as this whisky is now hard to come by.

Neat in a glencairn, this is the higher proof of the two batches by a whole 1%.

Nose: Similar to batch C. Very nutty. Different nuts though. This is more of a salty pine nut. Salted roasted sunflower seeds! That's it. Pine cones and sunflower kernals. Very oaky. Not as sweet or rich as C, more salty and savory, and still delicious.

Palate: Wow! Just wonderful! Sweet and savory combine to create a flavor profile from heaven. Chocolate cake, vanilla, salted pine nuts, spicier than C, not as rich but still has a thick buttery mouthfeel. Salted nuts dipped in chocolate and vanilla frosting. Again, almost a salted butter, dairy quality. I can't get enough. This is a power lifter, elevating flavor to a new level.

Finish: Hot, spicy, oaky finish. Very savory/salty. Salted caramel squares! The finish warms you like an electric blanket.

Overall: Another fabulous whiskey. Heaven Hill have outdone themselves. I will give a very slight edge to batch C but it is completely subjective. C is sweeter/richer, B is more balanced with salty/savory notes. Both excellent. These are two BEASTS OF BOURBON!


This will be part 1 of a side by side of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof batches C and B. The bottle of batch C belongs to me, the batch B I am muling for a friend who is letting me try a glass for the trouble, not that it was any.

This is from my bottle. Batch C918. Bottle opened 3 months and is 75% full. Neat in a glencairn as usual and glass has been sitting for an hour.

Nose: Very nutty! Cashews and peanuts. Sweet peanut butter. Vanilla frosting. Quite rich, oaky and buttery. More sweet than savory. You can easily tell this has been sleeping in oak for 12 years. Fantastic.

Palate: First sip, oh sweet Jesus take me home I have seen the light. This is an explosion of brown flavours, and quite different from the nose. Strong flavorful tastes of rich German chocolate cake, ripe berries, vanilla, white oak and salted butter. Oh my oh my. There is almost a dairy-like quality which is why I mention butter. The mouthfeel is thick.

Finish: Back to peanut butter, but salty this time. The oak really shows up here as well. Lingers for a nice long, warm time.

Overall: I love this whiskey. It is complex, strong, and rich. The difference between the palate and the nose/finish is quite enjoyable. Batch B has a lot to live up to. This is just as good or better than GTS. There I said it.


Last summer @fiddich1980 provided 3 mystery samples for me and for @paddockjudge. This was sample C. We blind tasted them together over Facetime in the fall, and after writing preliminary notes the identities were revealed.

Tonight I completed my review notes with the sample. I don’t remember if I gassed it. It was a newly opened bottle when the sample was made and the 2 oz bottle was just over half full when I poured it tonight.

This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes. No water was added tonight so I was able to pour the remainder back.


In the fall I got a typical bourbon nosewith cherry and brown sugar. Also grape sweet-tarts and cola bottle cap candies. Tonight there is a floral component. This is a very nice nose.

Taste: 18/25-21/25

In the fall I wrote that it burned on entry, and there was some sweetness and brown sugar. In the development it became quite bitter and astringent. Tonight it is still bitter but actually a lot less unpleasant. More peppery.


The finish was simply bitter before. It remains so but a little softer and more tannic.


All bitterness in the fall. Not too complex but powerful tonight.

Original tasting: 73/100 Jan. 13 review tasting: 82/100

This one was essentially undrinkable when I first tried it from the sample. It seemed to go well with @fiddich1980’s Crème Brûlée at his tasting, so airtime must be helping this one out. I’d be interested in knowing if it has developed further in his bottle since it seemed to do so in the sample bottle.

This is not the best ECBP I have tasted by any stretch, but given its changes over time it still has some potential. Thanks @fiddich1980!

@Nozinan My bottle is sitting at about two-thirds full. I suspect that much like the bottling of Weller 12 before the bottle re-vamp it will improve with time and oxidization. The Weller 12 I had took over two years to reach it's peak. I've noticed that bourbons need awhile without gasing and air exposure to improve. The rich tobacco note and bitterness have calmed since it was first opened in the late spring of 2017. The flavours are becoming more "blended", as opposed to being sharp and definitive in the first few. I'll have to see how it evolves.

I gave this one 74.5 in the blind tasting. It had a very good nose (23.5) and it went downhill from there. No complexity, poorly balanced, the finish was wet cardboard. I guessed this correctly as ECBP. One of three great blind picks by @fiddich1980.


So this is the tale end of a bottle I did a tasting with, and seeing as I've got several bottles of varying proofs, I want to document my tasting notes.

Colour on this is nice and dark, orange, reds and browns.

On the nose this is first and foremost deep rich caramels, caramelised sugars, muscodavo sugars, butterscotch, almost burnt caramel. Really sweet and intense, just as one would hope for in a bourbon. Grains are big in this. Getting toasted malt, thick oily corn sugars and slightly minty corn, herbal rye, but all tamed by the grip of the deep caramels. Then I'm picking up complimentary cinnamon and spice. The red fruits are coming through too in the higher floral notes, although can't quite pick out individual fruits. Also a slight grape, cognac note in there too. Wood is in there but subtle. Fantastic nose. Super deep burnt sugar and caramels. Nothing over dominates. Caramels are king but nicely complimented by fruit, spice and oak.

On the palate it's huge. Almost George T Stagg huge. First sip and I'm just trying to recover from the alcohol, because it blew away the flavours. Okay, let's try again. Picking out big caramel and big spicy rye notes, with an undercurrent of astringent oak wood. Really struggling to get to grips with this. Big wood, cherry, spice, butterscotch, oily sweetcorn, wood again, and the wood char. Eventually those burnt caramels coming through on the finish with some cinnamon and nutmeg. Nutmeg really comes through in the finish. It's weird because the wood is quite subtle in the nose, but not on the palate.

Overall I'm loving the nose, and whilst the taste is as hot as Stagg, it's not really bringing out enough flavour notes and the wood is too astringent and dominant.

No complaints though. This is a fab whiskey, but there are other versions of the barrel proof which are better.

@MuddyFunster, thanks for your very nice review.

It makes sense that you would write a review of the "tale" end of the bottle. Your review tells the tale.

@MuddyFunster, you have always impressed me as one who not merely talks, but takes action. Your excellent cabinet reflects that. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

I looked at the Bourbonr ECBP cheat sheet to remember that this is Batch # 5.


This is a review for the 69.7 batch of elijah craig barrel proof. I'm going to stray from the normal review format. This series is traditionally a very good bourbon, but this particular batch is over wooded. For the record this bourbon drinks easy for the proof, but all aspects of this batch are obscured by wood influence. After putting about 3 cubes of ice into a normal glencairn some other elements start to appear. Should i mention them? Maybe, or you could buy a normal bottle of Elijah Craig. Just do yourself a favor and avoid this batch.

@Victor_ @newreverie_ I greatly enjoy the ECBP at 69.7% abv (Release #11) purchased in New Mexico. I don't have four open bottles of ECBP; however_ there is something eerily haunting about this batch. The way the oak stays on the tongue and holds my attention as so many other things are happening. I'm not certain what prompted me to check this against one of my all-time favourite single malts_ but I did. The similarities between_ not the taste profiles_ but the way the clean oak bathes the tongue in a hypnotic oaky funk with_ are you ready for this?____Macallan Cask Strength batch 60.1% abv North America.

Wow...I've never tasted an ECBP I didn't enjoy a lot. Mind you I think I've only tasted 2 or 3. At $150 here (when it was available) you can be sure I won't buy it, but if I happen to be somewhere where I CAN find it, I'll try to avoid this batch.



The Accidental Review

I was looking for something to sustain me tonight as I finish some work and prepare minutes for a meeting, so I rummaged through my growing collection of neglected samples and poured the last 10 cc of this bottle, generously supplied by @Victor. I think I have a bottle of the same batch (same ABV). First sniff and I felt I had to write a review of it! It was gassed since I first poured some a long time ago, and I don’t know how long the bottle was open before the sample was poured.

I’m captivated by its rich, dark brown colour. Normally I don’t pay any heed to appearance, but given that by law bourbon cannot contain added colour, this is natural and all a result of oak interaction, and I can’t help but be impressed by the power of the wood.

This expression is reviewed in my usual manner, allowing it to settle after which I take my nosing and tasting notes, followed by the addition of a few drops of water, waiting, then nosing and tasting.


Neat – On first sniff, brown sugar and caramel, some vanilla. Left covered a few minutes and I get fruits, medium pitch. Cherries? Like from Cott’s black cherry soda. Dusty medium to heavy syrup. This is a warm, dark nose. You’d never guess this was 70% alcohol but the nose cries out FULL FLAVOUR . 23/25

With water – The nose remains fruity and full with no appreciable changes. (23/25)


Neat – Very oaky. Dusty. Sweet arrival, sour/bitter development. Astringent. Dark strong vanilla, some caramel in the background. Strong but not complex. You don’t feel any alcohol nip. 21/25

With water – Suddenly becomes hotter. After a few minutes this new alcohol nip fades to be replaced by a spiciness. Sweeter arrival, less bitter. I get some menthol or mint, and a more prominent sourness on the development. Much more complex than before and much more pleasant. (22/25)

Finish: Very dry, bitter . Medium finish. Unremarkable. 21/25. With water the finish is sweeter, less bitter, but not too long. (21.5/25)

Balance: The nose promises wonders but the palate does not deliver. Very uni-dimensional. 21/25 Water definitely enhances the balance and the entire experience, and helps this grow and open. (22.5/25)

Score: Neat - 86/100 With Water: 89 /100

Adjusted Score based on Patience and Enjoyment: 91/100

This is powerful bourbon. Even the last 10 cc are delicious. Although I like my bourbons neat, a few drops of water make this open beautifully, and while it brings out the alcohol, within 10-15 minutes this subsides leaving a full-bodied, more complex dram.

When I first started writing this review I thought that my 2 bottles (1 of this batch) were unlikely to excite me to buy more, but by the end of my review I feel obligated to bring more into Canada if I can, especially to share, because this a unique and flavourful bourbon.

Sipping today from a bourbon glass, a small pour from a bottle sourced for me by @Victor, I was concentrating on something else and took just a little too much too fast.

The result was choking, spluttering and hoarseness for a couple of hours. I had to pour out my glass (into a small "to save" vial, of course, can't waste this).

This is powerful stuff. I think I've learned it commands attention when brought anywhere near the lips!

@Nozinan, thanks for your very nice review. This batch # 6 of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is one with which I will routinely use some water, mostly because it brings out some sweetness which is otherwise very scarce with this batch. I never get tired of ECBP. It is very easy drinking, and a bottle can go very quickly. You can never own too much of it.

Another great thing about ECBP is that the batches are almost all wonderful. Batch # 4 was the only one which seemed to me noticeably below the standard of the others of the six or seven I have sampled.

I expect Elijah Craig Barrel Proof to get scarcer, more expensive, and maybe be discontinued before too long. Store it away if you can.


The reviewed sample is courtesy of @Nock, from a half full bottle. Heaven Hill does not number the batches; we do

Nose: intense sharply-edged very sweet moderately-high-pitched vanilla-cinnamon-oak, like a delicious candy. Great

Water added bundles the flavours and raises the pitch even higher. This nose is lovely with water added also

Score: 23.5/25 points

Taste: lovely translation to the mouth, with its richness more broadly dispersed. The flavours exhibit a great balance of high, medium, and low pitches, and also a perfect balance of sweet and dry

Water smoothes the flavours slightly, but otherwise has little effect

Score: 23.5/25 points

Finish: long finish, as is typical of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof; stays rich with all of the flavours remaining strong for a slow gradual fade

Water smoothes some of the flavours on the finish, but accentuates the tannins

Score: 22.5/25 points

Balance: what's not to like? This is another excellent Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, albeit perhaps the sweetest one I've tasted. That is a good thing, because ECBP can run very dry and tannic. This Batch # 5 reminds me a good deal of the Batch # 1 Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, at 67.1% ABV, except that Batch # 5 perhaps diffuses its sweetness more readily than does Batch # 1.

Intensity lovers: buy yourself a bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 12 YO if you are able. ECBP is THE easiest drinking high ABV whiskey I've ever tasted. Watch out! The bottle will be half empty before you know it!

Score: 23.5/25 points. Total Score: 93/100 points

Strength: excellent strong flavours all around. Score 24/25 points

Quality: all of the flavours are of very good quality. Score: 23/25 points

Variety: there is plenty of variety to keep the taster amused. Score: 23/25 points

Harmony: excellent harmony/balance of the flavours overall. Score 24/25 points

@Taco, having tasted ECBP Batches # 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, they have all, except batch # 4 fallen within about 3 or so points of each other in my ratings. This Batch # 5 impressed me more when I sat down to evaluate this sample of it than it did when I had tasted it previously along with a number of other whiskeys.

For me, my favourite to drink is not necessarily the one which gets the highest 'critic's number' from me. I personally like to drink for pleasure Batch # 6 more than some of the batches to which I have given a 1, 2, or 3 points higher score. How can this be? Because the number reviewing criteria I am using are not precisely weighted the same way as are my enjoyment preferences. For example, for my own pleasure, the intensity of the flavours assumes a very heavy weighting, more so than it does in the typical sequential Nose-Taste-Finish-Balance scoring. Even my own non-sequential system gives equal weight to Strengh of Flavours, as it does to Quality of Flavours, Variety of Flavours, and Harmony of Flavours. If I were to grade according to my 'favourites' for my own pleasure drinking, I would probably need to raise the weighting of Strength of flavours from 25/100 points to 40 or more points out of 100. Why have I not adopted such a scale for my reviews? Mainly because I think that the way I am currently weighting the scores makes them easier for others to understand and to relate to. So yes, I am a huge fan of Batch # 6, even though I scored it 1 to 3 points lower than I did several others. Despite my liking it, I have to admit that it is not as lush, complex, or balanced (especially without water) as some of the other batches.

@Taco, that leaves more bourbon for me. Actually, I like 'em all. I find that moods or weather conditions influence my whisky related choices. Macallan Cask Strength is at the top of my list when it comes to what is available from my cabinet. I am more partial to N. American whiskies, yet there are so many delicious whiskies from different countries of origin. Last month I was caught in a Canadian whisky loop with many being around 40% abv. This month I've been sipping on Cask Strength from the U.K., India, and the U.S. It is good for us to have these discussions so that we can better understand each others preferences. I find myself agreeing with JM more and more these days.


The reviewed sample is from the 7th release of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, and is compliments of @Nock. The bottle was opened 4 months ago and is half full

Nose: intense sweet oak and maple flavours are the first thing you experience. There is plenty of natural caramel and vanilla, as you would expect from any 12 year old bourbon. This batch has a beautiful floral note of rose tucked under all of those woody flavours, and also an interesting and pleasant sassafras/root beer note. Spice flavours from both rye and wood are present and noticeable, and combine with the other flavours in a seamless fabric. The balance here is excellent. This is an outstanding bourbon nose

Taste: this is a little bit more astringent in the mouth than I expected from the nose, with wood tannins showing more strongly than in the nose. The palate is still quite delicious, though, with the wood flavours commanding most of the attention

Finish: moves dry, tannic, and astringent

Balance: fabulous in the nose, very good on the palate, fair on the finish. I could nose this bourbon for an hour, because the nose is that good

Water added: 1) raises the sweetness pitch to that of confectioner's sugar, but otherwise blends and obscures the nose flavours, 2) dilutes, confounds, and homogenises the palate, and 3) sweetens and dilutes the finish. The nose with water is interesting, but otherwise I would recommend avoiding the addition of water to this whiskey

Heaven Hill does not give batch numbers; these batch numbers are all from an informal count by those of us who follow Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. This Batch # 7 is the lowest proof batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof yet released, though 64% ABV is certainly an adequate drinking strength. Batch # 7 is a very solid, representative batch of ECBP. It is not the most lush, nor the most intense, though it might well have the best nose

Strength: a mixed bag here. The nose is very strong and balanced. The palate is a little more restrained and delicate, especially by Elijah Craig Barrel Proof standards. The finish has intensity of flavour, but the sweet elements drop off too quickly. Score 23/25 pts

Quality: very good quality of flavours throughout. Score: 23/25 pts

Variety: fabulous variety in the nose, very good variety on the palate, and good variety on the finish. Score: 23/25 pts

Harmony: first rate in the nose, very good on the palate, only fair on the finish. Score: 22/25 pts

Total non-sequential score: 91/100 points

Comment: the reviews I write are "Critic's Reviews". This means I score/grade on specific criteria, and not on 'how much I enjoyed drinking the whisky'. I bring this up because there are whiskies which I have scored lower, but enjoyed drinking more, than, for example, this Batch # 7 Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, 12 YO. I scored Old Grand-Dad 114 at 87, then, later, 88 points, and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch # 6 at 90 points. If you asked me which among these three I would prefer for a good time drink, both the OGD114 and the Batch # 6 would be my overwhelming preferences. This takes nothing away from ECBP Batch # 7, which is a great bourbon, with an outstanding nose. All I can say is, "No cabinet should be without Old Grand-Dad 114".

@Victor another stellar on point review, thx.

What Heaven Hill is doing with EC12BP is something special! Elijah Craig 12y Barrel Proof has moved to the top of my bourbon purchases this year, I've bought 4 bottles of Batch 8, 69.9 ABV. I know some batches Are better than others, if someone has the opportunity to buy one get it, regardless of batch.

I hardly ever add water to whiskey but this one has to have water added. This bourbon opens amazingly with water.

@MaltActivist, good to hear from you. When I add water to whisky, I try to add 2 large drops, and then reassess.

There are only a very few whiskies to which I ever add more than that at first...and only a very few whiskies to which I will add more than that ever. Batch # 6 of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, at 70.1% ABV, and a very austere profile without water, is one that I am happy to add 6-8 drops to which at the git-go for a 45 ml/1.5 oz pour.


Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon 69.9 ABV Batch 8

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a limited release Small Batch bourbon. They hand select a limited amount of barrels that match in flavor profile. This is a twelve year old Bourbon and is bottled without chill filtering. At full Barrel Proof the Bourbon tastes the same as when the Master Distiller does his samples straight from the barrel.

The Rev. Elijah Craig was claimed to have been the inventor of Bourbon whiskey by being the first to age the whiskey in charred oak casks. Elijah Craig Bourbon is produced by Heaven Hill.

Heaven Hill doesn’t rotate their barrels. Barrels are aged in various areas of the warehouse, are then labeled with different labels on them. These labels are specific to location and flavors profiles. Evan Williams and Elijah Craig have the exact same mash bill (78% corn, 12% rye, 10% barley). The only differences between the two expressions are their proofs and where their barrels were aged. The taste of these two whiskies are very different.

This review is of Batch 8. I haven’t had the opportunity to sample any of the other batches, so I’m unable to give a comparison. @Victor, @Nock and a few others have done fantastic job describing how the other batches have performed, highly recommend you read them, I did.

Aroma: Cherry, Caramel, Oak, Little Orange Rind, Powerful

Aroma w/Water: Cherry, Caramel, Oak, Marmalade, Plum, Still Powerful

Taste: Caramel, Sour Cherry, Butter, Pepper and Hot as Hell!

Taste w/Water: Sweet Cherry, Caramel, Vanilla, Custard, Butterscotch, Black Tea and Leather, Black Walnut, Bitter Chocolate

Finish: Layers of flavors on the finish evolve nicely over 10 minutes. I don’t think the finish every faded completely away neat or with water.

Conclusion: I highly recommend that you add water to reduce the proof and open up the flavors. I hardly ever add water to whiskey but in this case it is a Must. When I first tried this neat I was concerned as it is a little one dimensional, like a punch in the nose. After adding water I was amazed at how much this bourbon opened up. Layers and Layers of flavors. This is the strongest whiskey I have ever had, with that much alcohol it can take your breath away. Neat it’s above average (84/100) but with water its outstanding al solid (92/100). I expect that after 6 months the bottle should open and improve, the score might hit 93 or 94. I reserve 95 and above for the future. I enjoyed this so much that I went back and bought the other two bottle, glad they were still there.

@Victor ECBP Batch #8 is one of the better bourbons I have every tasted, its up there in my top 4. You are so correct when you said "Don't be surprised, if that 69.9% abv bourbon is so drinkable that you start going through it more quickly than you would expect.". It has improved every time I've opened it, down 1/3 of the bottle already.

It is surprising how drinkable and delicious it is for such a high ABV. Confirmation, A good friend (non whiskey drinker) of mine was here last night for dinner, now he has sampled a few whiskeys of mine from time to time. He liked ECBP #8 so much he had a second dram and asked to take a pic of the bottle, he's going to buy himself a bottle. I found 3 more in town, I think I'll get the other 2.

I'm with you, love to find those cherry flavors in whiskey. I'll save some for you, make that trip to Albuquerque!

Thank you for the review. I love getting the chance to try these various batches of ECBP. Over all, I have found them to be consistently great bourbons (with the exception of Batch #4). So, I am not surprised this is another 90+ point bourbon.

I was just able to secure one bottle (only one sadly) of Batch #8. I am shocked at how easy it is for you to pick them up off the shelf in Albuquerque. I had to have a special "connection" just to get one bottle.

I'm not sure when I will get around to opening it as I already have Batch #5 and #7 open (with Batch #6 calling my name to get it opened . . .) However, when I do open it @Victor will certainly get a sample.


Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is their 12YO expression bottled cask strength. And coming with ABV level of 67,4%, this is as strong as it can get! By the way, this is probably the darkest whisky, I've encountered so far...

Very tough bourbon, but good. Chew this and it's like getting into a fight and liking it. Kinda like fighting a close friend and going out for drinks afterwards.

So this time, my movie reference is also a hockey reference: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is like a Goon. And in this case, a close friend who's a goon. While it's being rough, you're still liking and appreciating what it's doing.

Nose: Peppery hot at first. After water added, there's mahogany, maple, corn and waxy honey with hints of floral notes.

Taste: Man this is thick! The oils are like velvet. Syrupy, sour and sweet with warming rye and spices like cinnamon and black pepper.

Finish: Very very strong: warming spices with oil, dark chocolate and oak. A bit bitter.

Balance: Burns pleasantly. Great bourbon in balance: mix of sour, sweet and spicy notes in a great way!

God I love the high-test whiskies! It is nice that Elijah Craig is making some of them available at a moderate age-level. When 16 to 25 yo Willetts were more available, many of them would have ABVs in the 68-72% range. 2010, 2011, and 2012 George T. Stagg were all above 71% ABV, and I have some lovely Abraham Bowman 17 yo bourbon which is at 73.75% abv.

I am very curious as to the barrel entry ABV of the Old Buck. In the US there is a strict rule for bourbon and rye that barrel entry proof cannot exceed 62.5% abv. In Kentucky and Virginia (Kentucky was originally the Western part of Virginia), no doubt related to relatively dry humidity conditions, whiskeys gain alcohol content as they age, sometimes to a remarkable degree. My top favourite bottle is an Abraham Bowman US rye which is only 10 years old, but it is at a whopping 69.4% ABV in only 10 years. Usually in the US it takes a lot longer than that to get that kind of strength,...maybe 15 to 18 years. (Yes there are some high ABVs in the 12 yo Elijah Craig series also). SO, I am very curious as to the barrel entry ABV of the Old Buck single barrels, and to how the ABV changed with time to reach those 70+% levels.

Thanks @Victor. Wow, 70% must be quite a stunner! That's like some of the old Old Buck's few years ago.

I've really started to like the cask strength versions after I learned to add right portions of water in 'em. It's been amazing to sample many good ones in a row. Like being on a winning streak with the likes of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Willett Rye, Säntis Edition Drefailtigket and Glenlivet 16 yo Nadurra. That Säntis by the way, is a stunning dram from Switzerland. Hopefully I'll get the review here soon...


The reviewed bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is from the sixth batch released, at 70.1% abv. Previous batches were at, 67.1% (#1), 68.5% (#2), 66.6% (#3), 66.2% (#4), and 67.4% (#5). The whiskey was sampled and evaluated when the bottle was first opened, after 4 days, and after 14 days. I have decided to do this particular review in both sequential and in non-sequential time formats, because I feel that in this case the contrast in review styles will be very revealing

Colour: very dark; Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is some of the darkest whiskey you will ever see

Sequential format:

Nose: without water, the nose started out astringent, tannic, and understated on Day 1. By Day 14 without water the nose had become fuller, strongly wood spicey, moderately rye spicey, and remained very dry. With 3-5 drops of water, beginning on Day 1 and continuing throughout, the nose was much fuller, much stronger, rounder, sweeter, and better balanced with additional vanilla. By Day 4 I would place the pitch of this water-added nose at G on the lower half of the treble Clef, which is to say, Mezzo-soprano

Taste: without water, on Day 1 strong, tannic, and slightly astringent; wood spice fairly screams at you. By Day 14, the tannins had relaxed somewhat and translated the fuller Day 14 nose flavours well. Starting from Day 1 and continuing, the addition of water makes Batch # 6 richer, sweeter, more rounded, and more balanced

Finish: without water, moderately long and intense on Day 1, ending on tannic wood; by Day 14 the finish without water is long, intense, with a slow tone-down, and remains fierce and tannic. With water, beginning on Day 1 and throughout, astringent tannic wood is still the dominant theme on the finish, but it is mellowed somewhat and within enjoyable parameters

Balance: Without any water, this is a very austere whiskey. This is near the upper limit of acceptable wood tannins for me. I rated this, without water at 84 on Day 1, 86 on Day 4, and 88 on Day 14. This one really benefits from some water added. I would go so far as to say this one really needs water for maximum enjoyment. Water tones down the fierceness of this batch, adds sweetness, rounds out the exceptionally pointed flavours, and brings out some additional nuances of flavour, including increasing the perception of both nuances of wood and rye flavours, and in particular increasing the perception of vanilla. This review's recorded detailed scores are those with 3-5 drops of water added. It is interesting to observe that with water added my score for Batch # 6 came out to 90 points during all three tasting sessions

  • *

Non-Sequential format (SQVH): (with water)

Strength: the flavours are every bit as intense and pile-driving as you would typically expect from 70% ABV whiskey. Batch # 6 is fantastic for intensity lovers. Score: 25/25 pts

Quality: all of the flavours present are quite nice, with just a little more tannin than I would prefer, especially on the close. Score: 23/25 pts

Variety: this is the weak suit for this batch. The flavours are limited, especially with regards to sweetness. There is not the richness which some other batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof have. Batch 1, 67.1% ABV, and Batch 3, 66.6% ABV, for example, have much more lushness and many more nuances, than does Batch # 6. Score: 20/25 pts

Harmony: the flavours work fine together. You just wish that there were some more of them. Score: 22/25 pts

Total Score: 90/100 pts

Summation: the 70.1% ABV Batch # 6 of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof will delight intensity buffs, aka Big Flavours lovers. The range of flavours is not as full or as lush as is that of some of the other batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, but this is still a very enjoyable high-intensity bourbon. I strongly recommend adding water

(This one has characteristics which I feel may very well evolve in very positive ways with more and more air exposure. It is very tight now. Additional air may make it more flabby, which could be a very good thing in this case)

@JasonHambrey, I don't rigidly expect that the review scores for my reviews of the same whisky in differing formats will be identical using the three different review formats I have employed. I do check them against one another, and if they can justifiably be rectified to match, then I do match them. Why make any attempt at all to have them the same? Because I think that giving a whisky a single score without breaking it down into sub-components is a legitimate way to grade, and if that number means anything, it should be capable of being arrived at by differing legitimate methods, each of which does break down the component parts of the score. The primary rationale AGAINST the scores being identical or very close on a regular basis, in my mind, is difference of opinion whether each of the component parts of the review should be equally weighted, or not. So, in practice, when I review in two formats what I do is to do the complete review in one format, then the other, then compare the two, and use the differences to question whether or not any of the ratings should be re-considered. In the case of ECBP Batch # 6 I was content to have the review numbers equal out. I don't rule out doing reviews in which they are not the same.

@MaltActivist, thank you very much. Nothing would please me more than to see you, and others, try out the non-sequential review format. For me SQVH gives a very useful lens through which to observe a whisk(e)y. I am delighted that you can appreciate its merits.

I have done some others in this format. I started the non-time-sequential format in my review of Royal Canadian Small Batch. In that review, I posted the review in three separate formats. The third format, a Component Elements Evaluation Format, is explained within the text of that review.



I tried the 18 and 20 year old versions of this Elijah Craigh, but the youngest of the family had eluded me thus far. Time to put that right. What an alcohol percentage! 134.2 proof equals 67,1% ABV. I had better keep some water handy.

The nose offers dark wood, caramel and apples sprinkled with a thick layer of candied sugar. Juicy oranges too. A pinch of cinnamon.

The arrival is soften than anticipated, to be honest. It does not need water at all. Dark caramel emerges first, then cinnamon and finally some candied oranges in a layer of dark chocolate. Nicely sweet, not too spicy and very easy to sip.

The finish is by far the best part of this whiskey, for it allows all the flavors to return in waves, with some almonds and a twig of mint at the death.

Nice, eminently quaffable Elijah Craig.

Absolutely a steal of a deal. I have bought several bottles of this recently at $29-34. Nose is wonderful! To me it's the bourbon nosing equivalent to Glendronach Revival. Great taste and finish. I'm a big fan of Wild Turkey 101 and Rare Breed, and this fits in well with them. Nose tends to decrease quite a bit with water though, so don't add much. It drinks very well with just a bit of water, which is amazing considering its strength. However, I'd give it a 92, as I think it's as good as very good scotches. And I'm much more selective with my bourbons than scotches.


On night in April I sat down with the first 4 batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof to see how they stood up to one another.

This is the fourth release that I bought in March and opened on March 15th of 2013. The bottle is now half full.

Nose: This is still the same family as the other 4 batches, but this one has the most oak influence yet. All the brown sugar, maple syrup, and sour apples are there, but this one really seems to have more burning logs on the fire then any other. Compared to the 3rd release this one is less sweet with less maple syrup and more oak. It is surprisingly less sour then both the 2nd and 3rd release. Big surprise; it has both the lightest ABV and the easiest nose. I like the wood, but miss the power.

With water: highest and thinnest flavor tones of the night.

Taste: Sweet and then sour. It is very thin on the mouth compared to the others. More like varnish then a “thick bourbon.” The sour dominates the sweet (which is fighting to be heard).

With water: Still very sour with little sweetness.

Finish: Huge wave of sour fire, and then apples, wood, and brown sugar. The fire and sour leave the biggest impression. Nowhere near as spicy as the 3rd release. Nowhere near as powerful as the 2nd release, and nowhere near as deep and dark as the 1st release. This is a very salty finish without any of the thick richness of the others.

With water: Mostly sour . . . totally sour apples. Too much = water bad.

Balance, Complexity: Terribly unbalanced in the taste and finish (but the nose was there). I find it the least complex of the batches so far.

Aesthetic experience: This is a nice bottle . . . but it is a little hard to hold. I like the spout to pour. And I love the barrel proof nature of this beast. I just wish the age were more prominently displayed. A 12 year old Bourbon should say it on the front label!

Conclusion: Easily my least favorite batch so far. I have tasted this on several occasion over the last 2 month . . . and I have not been impressed. Oh, it has been a big powerful bourbon all on its own . . . but I don’t reach for it. I will give it a few months with the bottle at the half way mark before I try it again. I had the opportunity to pick up a second bottle and passed. I am now on the lookout for the 5th batch! Let us hope this is not a trend in lower ABV and lower quality.

This is phenomenally great whisk(e)y! How does this not rate at least 88? Great nose, great neat, great with a couple of cubes of ice. This is even better than WTRB and JJ Bowman. And I love WT! Great stuff! Buy now! Keep making it Heaven Hill!

Again, superb sequence. Most of us don't have a stash of the barrel proof releases. Very interesting, very educational.


One night in April I sat down with the first 4 batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof to see how they stood up to one another.

This is the third release. It is a 2oz sample graciously provided by @Victor during my visit on March 10. I believe the bottle was opened on November 19 of 2013.

Nose: Sweet brown sugar and maple syrup similar to the 1st release. However, there is more maple, less brown sugar, and less intense over all. Now I am getting a similar sour tone to the 2nd release, only not as strong. This is sitting right between the 1st and 2nd release, but with less intensity and power. This is closer to the 1st then 2nd release if I had to make a call. It is far easier on the nose then the 2nd (if you like that kind of thing).

With water: darker and thicker then the 1st release. It takes water well. The nose actually goes up a bit with water in my book (rare that)

Taste: Thicker then the 1st and 4th release (far better mouth feel). Viscous, sweet brown sugar coating baked apples.

With water: Still decent . . . but not as great.

Finish: Huge wave of sweet brown sugar coated baked apple pie: nutmeg, cinnamon, and other delightful spices. Tons of spices . . . might be the most spice and sharpest bite on any of the batch finishes. This is a nice apple orchard in the fall.

With water: Not as much spice (obviously), but still the spiciest of the night - lovely

Balance, Complexity: Far more balanced then the 4th release and better integrated. I think the balance across the board (nose to finish) is probably the best of the 4 batches. The 1st and 2nd releases each have their own different points of drop off. This guy, while not as impressive in any one category, really delivers a steady delight flavors.

Aesthetic experience: This is a nice bottle . . . but it is a little hard to hold. I like the spout to pour. And I love the barrel proof nature of this beast. I just wish the age were more prominently displayed. A 12 year old Bourbon should say it on the front label!

Conclusion: I am very sad that I missed out on a bottle of this batch. It is probably my second favorite after the 1st release simply because of the complexity and spice . . . and it is an easy drinker.

@Benancio, that ECBP you bought is Batch # 8. I passed on that one 10 days ago, only because I have lots and lots of bottles of other batches of ECBP already.

But you are lucky in one respect. 69.9% abv is VERY different from 140 proof in that it is legal for you to bring 69.9% abv into packed airline luggage. You can't legally do that with the Batch # 6, at 70.1% abv. 70% ABV/140 proof is a nice impressive number, but being airline carrier eligible is one advantage of being UNDER 70%, even by 1/10th of 1%.

Chances are I'll eventually get a taste of your batch # 8. I imagine my pal @Nock will come up with some.

@Nock I read all your reviews on ECBP, great reviews. I found a bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof at 69.9 ABV. Holy cow that is 140 proof. Its gone up since 2013 , it's $55. I think I'll get it. Expect big burn, tons of carmel and oak. Any thoughts on the recent bottlings? Have you tasted the 69.9 ABV expression? Benancio.


One night in April I sat down with the first 4 batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof to see how they stood up to one another.

This is the second release that I bought and opened on November 11th of 2013. I transferred it to a 200mL bottle in early January of 2014.

Nose: A whiff of smoke greets the nose. Even more sharp and powerful then the 1st release, but without as much depth of sweetness and bass tones. The sweet brown sugar is there, but not as intense. Further, there are some sour notes (granny smith apples, and lemon peel) that create a balance to the sweetness of the 1st release. This has the highest searing-melt-your-face tones of the night. More fire and less wood here then batch 1.

With water: more mellow: not as great as the 3rd release but still better then the 1st or 4th release. There is a much higher tone (2 notches) to this with water then the 3rd release.

Taste: Huge thickness, power, brown sugar mixed with sour apples and lemon zest. This is less sweet than the first release. That said, it has my favorite mouth feel of the 4 batches. =

With water: Not as thick (obviously), but still great

Finish: Huge and mouth decimating . . . hard to breath after this one . . . Oh ya . . . waves of oak barrels, brown sugar, remnants of fires, apples, BBQ, and other southern staples. This is a true southern finish . . . like Stonewall to the sea . . . huge, huge, huge . . .

With water: still the biggest finish anywhere with water . . . still decimation and destruction . . . I am amazed.

Balance, Complexity: This is not as complex and deep as the 1st release, or as spicy as the 3rd release. However, this 2nd batch has a taste and finish to die fore. Is the balance or complexity everything it could be? No.

Aesthetic experience: This is a nice bottle . . . but it is a little hard to hold. I like the spout to pour. And I love the barrel proof nature of this beast. I just wish the age were more prominently displayed. A 12 year old Bourbon should say it on the front label!

Conclusion: This is the biggest and most explosive of the batches (as if you couldn’t already tell that from the ABV). Sadly, it doesn’t have quite the same depth, sweetness and darkness that I enjoy in the first release, or the spice, sweetness and balance of the 3rd release. Still, it is almost tied with the 3rd release (maybe a half point behind?). However, I would need more time (and more liquid) with both to really tease it out. For now I will call them about even.


One night in April I sat down with the first 4 batches of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof to see how they stood up to one another.

This is the first release that I bought and opened on August 15 of 2013. I transferred it to a 200mL bottle on Oct. 31 of 2013.

Nose: Sweet brown sugar, oak, sweet corn, thick and rich maple syrup. This is huge, deep and thick - much like I expect in a Stagg. It is really baked on brown sugar crumble with a healthy chunk of wood floating in the mix. Now more baked apples come through – dark red delicious. There are huge smoldering logs on the fire. Huge intense fires from the depths of . . . somewhere? This nose just seems to live down in the baritone range. This is super deep and rich. This is easily the deepest, sweetest, least sour and darkest nose of the 4 batches. I am having a hard time finding a fault with this nose tonight.

With water: thinner and not as great. It falls into line with the rest of the releases. Water was not a friend; it made it thin and introduced sour elements.

Taste: Nice balanced sweet mouth arrival. Same old style mouth feel as the Stagg Sr. with deep brown sugar, wood, and deep leather. Thick and viscous mouth feel. Sweet brown sugar, and then some sour. Not as thick as the 2nd or 3rd release but far more then the 4th. = 5.5

Finish: Huge wave of fire, smoke, bbq pit, and then a second even bigger wave of fire and smoldering decimation . . . lots of burning brown sugar, fire, oak, and BBQ . . . huge waves of fire wash over you . . . this is not as big as the 2nd release, but it is much deeper and darker.

With water: more sour notes. Not as powerful or as good. I am saddened.

Balance, Complexity: Wonderful depth of complexity on the nose, but it lacks something on the taste and finish. This is all on low tones and notes tonight. That seems to give it the most “balanced” feel of the night. Nothing is sharp or out of place here. Everything seems to be in a baritone range.

Aesthetic experience: This is a nice bottle . . . but it is a little hard to hold. I like the spout to pour. And I love the barrel proof nature of this beast. I just wish the age were more prominently displayed. A 12 year old Bourbon should say it on the front label!

Conclusion: This is the “deep and dark” one. It is also probably my favorite of the 4 batches I have tried. I am very sad I didn’t pick up another bottle. When I first opened this I was very hesitant to like it. Now that I have fully warmed up to it . . . I have had to re-score it. I have scored it on several occasions now: 91, 92, 93, and 94. It might have been the bottle getting better with air, but I tend to think that is more just me getting to know this guy.



Within the last 6 months or so, Heaven Hill distillery has offered a special Barrel Proof version of the Elijah Craig 12 YO Bourbon. Twelve years is enough time for a bourbon to develop considerable alcohol content, and the three releases of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof I have seen thus far, at 67.1%, 68.5%, and 66.6% certainly qualify as being at a high intensity of concentration of flavours and alcohol. This review is of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, batch # 3, by my informal count, at 66.6% ABV. The reviewed bottle has been open for 5 weeks and is 95% full. I hope to do a review of the Batch # 2 at 68.5% ABV someday when I later open a bottle of it

Colour: it would take a wet dream to get a Scotch this colour

Mouthfeel: very thick and chewy

Nose: heavy thick sweet maple, not unlike some of the best Canadian whiskies, e.g. Danfield's 21 YO; vanilla and natural caramel from the wood; some floral elements of carnation and rose; spice which is potent, but not as strong as the wood flavours; rich and full-bodied

Taste: strong and very pointed flavours in the mouth, both the wood flavours and the rye spice flavours. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof 66.6% is very thick and syrupy, like a thick reduction of maple syrup. This is quite sweet, with a balance from the sour, as is typical of American whiskeys. The baking spices from rye grain of cloves, nutmeg, cassia/cinnamon are quite strong on the palate. This is a VERY BIG WHISKEY

Finish: those flavours will just linger on your tongue for a very very long time

Balance: these have to be the top notch barrels selected for Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. New wood flavours are the dominant element here, and this batch definitely goes to the sweet side, but there is nothing cloying or offensive about it. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is a very big bourbon experience, and I highly recommend it. US suggested retail at $ 39.99 is almost too good to be true. There is no other bourbon available in the US or elsewhere at over 65% ABV sold for any price close to this. May Heaven Hill expand production and distribution of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, and maintain this incredible price for it. At this quality and at this price, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof will be a very worthy competitor to Booker's Small Batch Bourbon, by Jim Beam

@PeatyZealot, yes, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is still hard to get even in the U.S. My hope is that Heaven Hill ramps up supply... it has not happened yet. What bottles do show up disappear in a hurry, so it must be selling very well.

I got to try this at Hard Water, a nice whiskey bar in San Francisco. You are spot on about the color - Jeepers Creepers, it's dark. I have been looking for a bottle in TN/KY. No luck yet. Will be sure to pounce on the next release!


Many thanks to @Nock for the reviewed sample. Note that there are at least 2 batches of Elijah Craig 12 YO Barrel Proof released to date, this 67.1% ABV one and one at 68.5% ABV. The reviewed bottle has been open 2 months, and is approximately half empty.

Colour: high ABV bourbon is extremely dark in colour. Elijah Craig 12 YO Barrel Proof is one of the darkest whiskeys you will ever see

Nose: intense maplewood, cinnamon, confectioner's sugar, molasses. Sweet with a sour balance. Very light alcohol greeting for a 67.1% ABV bourbon. This is very very nice

Taste: lovely translation of the flavours from the nose, manifesting in a lush rich way

Finish: very long, intense, very maply finish, continuing very rich and lush. There is plenty of strength here, but this is not at all overpowering

Balance: this is a GREAT addition to the bourbon repertoire. So far this is a special release allocated whiskey. Hopefully the rumours are true and Heaven Hill will continue Elijah Craig 12 YO Barrel Proof as a regular periodic offering. If the current USA suggested retail price is maintained at $ 40 plus tax then Elijah Craig 12 YO Barrel Proof will also continue to be one of the very best buys in the world of American whiskey

@Bigtuna, the Elijah Craig 12 YO Barrel Proof which I have had has been far superior, not just in potency, but in everything about the flavours, compared to all of the standard Elijah Craig 12 YO which I have tasted. I assume this is because of superior barrel selection for the launch of a new premium product line. I am not a big fan of standard EC12, but I am of this new Barrel Proof 12.

Comparing to Booker's, the styles are somewhat different, both very nice. I would describe the EC12BP as being more lush and rich than I would describe Booker's. Booker's has great strong flavours, which are very vivid and, in my experience, pointed. EC12BP is more like lying on a very lush carpet. Depending on mood, I could prefer either one of them to the other.

Granted I can find a bottle how would you compare this to Bookers? It's been awhile since I've had the regular 12, but I remember it being a little to bitter for my liking. However, my tastes have changed a lot since then.


The brief history of my relationship with Elijah Craig. So my very first bottle of bourbon that I bought with my own money was George T. Stagg in 2005 after hearing it beat out Laphroaig 10 CS for best whisky in the world. Previously, I had tried Maker’s Mark, Jack Daniels and a few others without much interest. However, the ’05 Stagg was purchased because of this distinction and I loved it! It then sent me on a Bourbon journey. My first pick was a bottle of Elijah Craig 12yo based largely on the recommendation of Jim Murray and his 2005 Whisky Bible. Boy was I disappointed. My journey came to a grinding halt. In my memory the notes of lavender and perfume loom large. I remember having some friends help me finish it off at a bonfire as I hated it. I have never purchased from Elijah Craig again (and only bought bourbon for cocktails). However, in the last few years I have slowly been warming back up to Bourbon – mostly through the annual Stagg hunt.

So I saw this bottle on a shelf in Virginia sitting all alone. So I called @Victor about it. He said he already owned a bottle (or two) and didn’t seem all that interested. I went home and did some research on it only to discover that it is quite hard to get your hands on – especially at the list price of $40 (which it was). So two days later I went back and picked it up (turns out it was the last bottle in the state). For me this is an impulse buy. I typically like to create a comparison chart with different reviewers’ rankings. Then I compare price to general ranking vs. availability . . . it is a maddening process in which I find sick pleasure. This experience shows me that sometimes you can just pick up a bottle with your gut. My gut said buy it – so I did. I have consumed more then half the bottle in these two months. Soon I will decant this into a smaller bottle. I have tasted it “officially” with pen and paper against other bourbons on three occasions.

Nose: Deep dark brown sugar, leather, and molasses. This is deep and rich. It doesn’t nose like a 134 proof whisky! There is charcoal, leather, and rich spices. Amazing! Much more power then the Old Granddad 114 (which is only natural at 57%) but quite a bit less power then Stagg Jr. at 67.2%. Way more dark tones: oak, molasses, brown sugar, dark maple syrup then either. Dark bittersweet chocolate, old stewed apples baked in brown sugar, and fudge. Now I am picking up on the baked apples (Gala) which gives it a decent sour note. This has a very balanced nose for 67.1%!! There is sweetness . . . but it seems to be relaxing on the porch. This is the kind of bourbon you sip in the cool of the day under the shade of the front porch after working all day. Caramelized brown sugar and smoke from a charred oak log - that is it. Wait, now a hint of lavender in the far background. This is lovely.

Taste: Sweet then sour; feels like fire and brown sugar turning into lava. Wonderful pucker: brown sugar, maple (wood) charcoal. You simply can’t hold it in your mouth for long. The pucker draws out all the moisture from your mouth. Still lovely leather, and sea salt. With water way better. Might drive it up a whole point.

Finish: Huge mouth destroying fire. It hurts to breath! Huge wave of sweet brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, and honey. Very sweet and intense. This is a huge bruiser . . . and it lasts for an age. You mouth is left with a very interesting (read odd) note of burnt wood, molasses, and lavender. This is a very dry and non-sweet finish. It is very long . . . I feel like I licked the inside of a barrel. The burning charcoal keeps going and going . . .

Balance, Complexity: Amazing complexity and balance on the nose – which is really where this guy shines. I will say it is more complex then the Stagg Jr. (but then it is 12yo and the JR. is 8-9 years). The balance is also remarkable. There is always this hint of sourness, but it only serves to balance out the sweetness – and it is never too sweet. The ABV really seems much less then the JR while it is actually only .1% less! The finish is also extremely lovely. However, I didn’t love it on the tongue: it was overly sour compared to the nose and finish – and it was very sharp.

Aesthetic experience: Very nice dark richness to the bottle. I love the ABV for the price. It does seem like a steal for a 12yo bourbon at over 130 Proof for only $40! It does look cool. Very cool stopper and pour lip. I wish they put the age on it. I really like this bottle at barrel proof (134.2). The color is so dark and sexy – this is amazing.

Conclusion: This is a buy I am REALLY glad I made. The bottle has really, really grown on me since I opened it. That said, all three scores have been the same. I can’t say it has changed very much, but my appreciation certainly has. Elijah Craig has been redeemed in my mind. According to other online opinions (for what they are worth – this one included!) the second batch is not quite as stellar as the first batch. However, if I see it for $40 I will pick it up without hesitation. Heck, I would probably buy two. This gets a hearty recommendation from me.

@Nock, you are the paragon of the Big Flavours Lover! "Huge mouth destroying fire. It hurts to breathe!" = "I love it!". I am that guy too, except I am willing to step away from the Big Flavours a lot more often than you are. "Feels like fire and brown sugar turning into lava." Ah, what could be more appealing?...to the whisky Big Flavours Lover. Yes, I wondered how you would receive that opening quartet of Glen Grant 10, Glengoyne 10, Balvenie 15 SB, and Aberfeldy 12, when I saw you last. I should have known that you would be cool with it...it wouldn't do to spit them out in front of your wife, and even a Big Flavours Guy will drink a soft drink once in awhile.

Lovely eloquent review. I am now sitting down with the sample you recently gave me from this reviewed bottle, and am going through your "play-by-play". My own bottles remain unopened.

Your descriptions seem excellent to me, though I would call the chocolate semi-sweet, rather than bittersweet. I don't taste any bitter here. I think that what seems bitter is the bite of the alcohol. Also, while I like the nose, I like the palate even more. There is a lot of richness spread all around the palate. I would say, as you have, that this has a lot more dimension/complexity than I find in the Stagg Jr., primarily from more wood aging, but also a marginally higher rye content. And I would rate this right at about 91, as you have.

Two giant overarching questions present themselves: 1) will Elijah Craig 12 YO Barrel Proof become, as rumoured, a standard part of the Heaven Hill line?, and 2) will it remain long at $ 40 US suggested retail price? You are absolutely right that any 67+% ABV bourbon selling for $ 40 plus tax is an absolute steal. Occasionally Booker's at 61-65% ABV might be discounted to that price, but that is quite rare.

I actually had an even worse first experience with standard Elijah Craig 12 YO than you did. My first, and quite likely only, 750 ml bottle of Elijah Craig 12 tasted of NOTHING BUT SOAP for 2 consecutive YEARS. I am not really sure why I didn't throw it out...but I would re-taste is every once in awhile out of disbelief at how bad it was and to remind myself that it really did taste like that. After 2 YEARS suddenly all the soap suddenly VANISHED and there was a decent bourbon under there which had never manifested any part of itself before. That bottle seemed to deteriourate fairly quickly after the actual bourbon flavours manifested though. It was by that time 2 1/2 years old.

I am very curious to get into my Elijah Craig 12 Barrel Proof, and I have bottles from 2 separate batches of it on hand, at 67.1% and 68.5% ABV. So far, though, I am restaining myself with difficulty, not opening new bottles, while I whittle down the enormous numbers of open bottles I already have. Seeing whisky spoil is even more disconcerting to me than having to wait to open a bottle. Hhhmmmm. Maybe I should use the rest of this sample for tasting notes for my own review.

Thanks again for a cool review.

@Victor thank you for the very kind words. I am honored to be in the “Big Flavors Club” with you. You ability to so easily step into the “Other Flavor Clubs” causes me some jealousy.

To your critique: I agree that my use of the words “bittersweet chocolate” was not my intention. I am embarrassed! I actually meant to put in “semi-sweet chocolate.” Those are the chocolate chips the kids like for making cookies – hence the ones we always have around the house. I prefer bittersweet chocolate chip cookies . . . we just never have them. My apologies.

Your hesitation of my “light flavored” whisky request was not unfounded. That said – that night you heard my honest reactions. I will share my own personal scores with you as you alone get a sense of their absurdity. Basically, anything that falls below a 19.5 is an “I won’t buy.” From 20-25 I am now in the “I will buy for the right price category.” 25.5-29 is a “buy whenever I’m out.” And 29.5-32.5 is a “buy as many bottles as I can possibly find.”

To the bottles you mentioned: Balvenie 15 Single Barrel and the Aberfeldy 12 are the only ones in would put below 19.5 mark (which is basically an 80). Everything else I would score above that mark. Glen Grant 10, Glengoyne 10, Glenfarclas 12, Glenfarclas 15, Highland Park 15, Old Pulteney 17, Bowmore 12, and Bowmore 15 Darkest.

My favorite of this grouping was undoubtedly the Glenfarclas 15yo. It was the only one I might put above 25 (above 88.5). The Pulteney and the Highland Park were extremely intriguing. The Bowmore 12 and 15 were a toss up for me. I actually liked both for different reasons. When I stood at the store the next day I had both bottles in hand . . . I ended up with the 15 simply because I can’t buy it here in Virginia. And I was inches from picking up the Glen Grant 10 . . . but went with the Glen Garioch instead. We will see how that turns out.

So your generous tasting was FAR from a controlled display of etiquette. It was a genuine delight in trying whiskies that I suspected I wouldn’t want to own. My surprise was in how many bottles genuinely enjoyed. As you suspect, once I get my nose on some peat it is all down hill . . .

Your own experience with Elijah Craig is hilarious! It reminds me that I believe I got that same “soap” thing but called it “perfume.” I am delighted you reviewed my sample of ECBP. And I look forward to your reviews of other samples from my humble whisky stash.

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