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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.